Secure messaging in healthcare: A safer alternative to texting
People send over 20 billion text messages every day worldwide, and Text Request reports 95 percent of texts are read within five minutes of being sent. Because of its convenience, open rates, and speed, text messaging is the preferred method of communication — both for work and personal life.
Due to the nature of the profession, texting has become a popular way to communicate in the healthcare industry. However, there’s a need for more secure messaging. Due to the strict requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and the rise of cybersecurity threats targeting the healthcare industry, communicating patient information via text significantly increases the risk of a data breach.
Patient care requires fast-paced collaboration for life-saving decisions. Emails, phone calls or pagers are not effective enough for these situations, which require rapid responses. Traditional SMS text messaging and even messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — despite encrypting text — fail to meet HIPAA standards, leaving patient information vulnerable. To leverage the convenience of text messaging while protecting patient information, healthcare organizations need to explore implementing a secure, compliant messaging platform.
Ensuring swift and secure clinical communications
Because a patient’s status can change drastically in a matter of minutes, there’s a significant need for healthcare professionals in the field to communicate and collaborate with their teams. Should anything delay this collaboration, the patient might not receive the necessary care. To streamline this communication while still adhering to HIPAA compliance, healthcare organizations have turned to tools such as communication portals and email encryption. But using these services can still result in delays that could hinder a patient’s continuum of care.
Secure messaging, on the other hand, is an application platform that provides real-time, sender-controlled, encrypted and compliant texting capabilities to ensure patient information stays confidential. Secure messaging apps enable swift and efficient communications between patient care team members while safeguarding sensitive information delivered through mobile devices, such as test results and medical images. By preventing recipients from taking screenshots, forwarding or saving message content to their phones, the app protects communications from unauthorized propagation, misuse or breach.
Automating reminders and notifications
According to Health Management Technology, the annual cost of missed appointments in the US is $150 billion, and 88 percent of appointment reminders are still manually and unreliably communicated through landlines. In fact, care team members spend 1.5 to two hours a day on the phone calling patients. Those that use secure messaging to automate these communications to engage patients can see substantial time and fiscal savings.
Furthermore, according to TeleVox, automated patient reminders reduce missed appointments by 48 percent. Some secure messaging solutions also provide the option to continuously push notifications until recipients read the messages. This type of persistent notification is particularly beneficial for critical communications, such as a reminder to stop taking blood thinners before surgery.
Though text messaging has become a favored tool for healthcare professionals, it’s also the riskiest, leaving critical communications and sensitive patient information vulnerable. However, pagers and emails are no longer efficient forms of communication, and when time is critical, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrators need to communicate and collaborate quickly. To maintain real-time communication without jeopardizing security or compliance, secure messaging is the right alternative.