All You Need To Know About HIPAA-Compliant Texting To Patients

Last updated September 4, 2020 written by Tetiana

In recent times, texting has become the most preferred channel of communication for people. As the world moved towards text-centric communications, it is critical for businesses to embrace it, too.

Text messaging is proven to engage patients, enhance outcomes, improve staff productivity, and strengthen the workflow. Text messages have already been called the digital health tool of the century, for several good reasons.

In fact, health care providers have also incorporated two-way texting as a communication tool for patient engagement. Furthermore, it provides engagement opportunities as it allows healthcare providers to schedule appointments, send appointment reminders and manage other health updates.

Patients and their caregivers even go so far as to request prescription refills and communicate with their doctor or nurse via text messaging.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that healthcare services are finding ways to leverage this patient engagement technology to fulfill their patients’ healthcare needs. After all, secure texting can help increase the efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery and achieve the best possible health outcomes for patients.

The trouble is that health services come with a lot of clerical work, and marketing them isn’t easy either. But HIPAA compliant texting can help manage these seamlessly in a remote setting!

hipaa compliant texting

What Is HIPAA Compliant Texting?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulates how healthcare providers and related businesses record, store, manage and share patient's private and personal medical information.

Now that you know a little about HIPAA let's take a closer look at what HIPAA compliant texting is and how it can help.

HIPAA compliant texting is a unified and secure communications solution that helps healthcare providers and patients exchange protected health information (PHI) via text or social media messaging, the most preferred method of communication for young people.

Additionally, it protects patient-doctor confidentiality and helps them connect more effectively than video calls or e-mails. It's convenient and affordable, and the preferred way to contact, as long as you don't have to get an answer immediately.

There are a variety of tools that provide HIPAA compliant messaging solutions to healthcare providers and patients. However, physicians and health systems must tread with caution when communicating via text with patients.

Be mindful of the risks associated with HIPAA compliant texting, and develop precautions and policies to alleviate adverse legal consequences.

For example, the failure to use a HIPAA compliant texting application when sending messages that contain patient's sensitive information can lead to a hefty HIPAA fine.

How HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging Works?

A HIPAA compliant text messaging connects an authorized user to a secure network of other approved users. It is a secure messaging solution that enables multiple parties to have confidential discussions to enhance workflows, increase productivity, and reduce costs.

Once logged into the app, users can exchange protected health information (PHI), share images, documents, and videos securely with other authorized users. All communications are encrypted to protect them from access by third parties.

Furthermore, the network monitors all the activity by the secured text messaging platform. The platform produces activity reports so that admins can ensure that they are working with a HIPAA compliant texting service and follow organizational texting policies.

These text messages are secured and encrypted to prevent the health information from being altered or stolen by unauthorized use, saved to an external hard drive, or sent outside of the healthcare organization's private network in any way.

At Nexa, we promote HIPAA compliant text messaging, and the data in our web-app is protected and encrypted. We also encourage our staff to comply with HIPAA rules regarding text messaging to maintain integrity and ensure that only authorized staff members can message patients.

A Guide to HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging In Healthcare

An effective messaging policy much apply to the healthcare organization in its entirety, including all workers, doctors, and affiliates.

In a healthcare environment, HIPAA compliant texting apps can also raise the standard and quality of healthcare received by patients, like diagnoses, laboratory results, physician consults, and discharges can all be accelerated by secure messaging.

Furthemore, the applications that process, store, or transmit protected health information (PHI) or other sensitive information must also be assessed as per the HIPAA policies.

A policy for HIPAA compliant messaging should be established to promote secure messaging. Any message that contains PHI must comply with HIPAA rules regarding text messaging. All such messages must be sent in a protected, encrypted, and confidential environment.

In addition to encryption standards, it is essential to set the course of action for the health care information content to be shared via secure text messaging.

The Department of Health and Human Services echoes the same concerns when it states that organizations must:

  • Ensure the secrecy, reliability, and accessibility of all electronic PHI created, received, maintained or transmitted
  • Protect it from a security breach and any unauthorized access and integrity of the information
  • Have a technique for a remote wipe that enables to remotely erase the patient information on the mobile phone in case the device is misplaced or stolen
  • Make sure the compliance by users of the information

While these rules are important, the staff and patients must also be comfortable exchanging relevant information and be certain that their interactions are safe from HIPAA violations.

This makes it all the more important to implement an effective policy for the use of HIPAA compliant text messaging with the relevant safeguards. This ensures the accuracy of the information being sent by the health care staff.

Are Your HIPAA Compliant Texting Policies In Place?

Most health care providers prefer to use text messaging to improve patient engagement and outcome, either to communicate with patients or for the team to collaborate internally. Therefore, it is crucial to use a secure, HIPAA compliant text messaging platforms and servers from trusted providers.

When it comes to HIPAA regulations and secure text messaging, privacy, and security policies must be put in place under HIPAA rules to prevent any unauthorized access to protected health information (PHI) during transmission.

For compliance when using HIPAA and texting, a covered entity must meet the following two specifications – protect the integrity and encrypt the protected health information during transmission.

Healthcare organizations can enforce HIPAA compliant messaging by ensuring that all employees, affiliates, physicians, and third-party contractors and vendors know and apply HIPAA's guidelines.

It is necessary to secure the protected health information (PHI) – especially if sensitive information is being sent via any mobile device by healthcare professionals.

When sharing PHI via secure text messaging on mobile devices, it is vital to comply with HIPAA guidelines to avoid security threats.

With HIPAA rules in place, healthcare providers can guarantee the data safety and confidentiality of their health information, while providing patients the accessibility of seamless interaction.

The best approach to avoid such situations is to ensure that all the tools used are HIPAA compliant.  A HIPAA compliant tool will have strong encryption, access controls, self-audit, and authorization protocols.

Are You Ready To Implement HIPAA Compliant Texting?

Hospitals as well as medical and dental practices are increasingly turning to text messaging to ensure effective communications.

And Nexa is with them, every step of the way. We use text messaging to streamline patient engagement and improve the quality of service.

Count on us for HIPAA compliant text messages that allow you to segment and sends/receive secure messages while keeping the health information safe. Get in touch with us today to find a reliable messaging solution for your practice!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The HIPAA Privacy Rule?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, was passed by U.S. Congress in 1996. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services then issued a final “Privacy Rule”. It established a set of general standards for the protection of an individual’s health information.

The policy addresses the use and disclosure of health information and also sets standards for confidentiality rights to gain access to, be informed of, and control how their health information is used — also known as protected health information (PHI).

What Is Protected Health Information (PHI)?

Protected health information (PHI) is an individual’s identifiable health information such as name, address, etc. This information is held or transmitted by covered entities in any form, whether electronic, paper, or oral. Also, it gives patients an array of rights concerning their health information.

What Is A HIPAA Covered Entity?

A HIPAA covered entity is any healthcare service provider, including hospitals, physicians, surgeons, pathology labs, radiation facilities, insurance companies, and data processors, that transmits any health information in electronic form for financial and administrative transactions.

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