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HIPAA Compliant Texting Application

HIPAA Compliant Texting Application

What is a HIPAA Compliant Texting Application?

A HIPAA compliant texting application, or “app”, is a type of software that can be downloaded onto desktop computers and mobile devices. It enables the secure communication of protected health information (PHI) between authorized users in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – an Act that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

Apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging have been increasingly adopted by healthcare organizations as the popularity of BYOD policies has accelerated. They are seen as a way of maintaining the integrity of PHI at rest and in transit, and useful tools for preventing accidental and malicious breaches of PHI. Apps for HIPPA compliant text messaging have also been identified as accelerating the flow of communication in healthcare organizations – improving productivity and enhancing the service provided to patients.

How Apps for HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging Work

A HIPAA compliant texting application works by connecting an authorized user to a secure private network of other authorized users. Once logged into the app with a unique username and password, the authorized user can communicate PHI, share images, documents and videos securely with other authorized users – all communications being encrypted to prevent them from being intercepted in transit and accessed by third parties.

The apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging have safeguards in place to prevent PHI from being copied or pasted, saved to an external hard drive or sent outside of the healthcare organization´s private network. Furthermore, all activity on the network is monitored by the secure messaging platform through which all secure text messages travel. The platform produces activity reports so that admins can ensure each HIPAA compliant texting application is being used according to organizational texting policies.

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Further Safeguards Exist at Admin Level

At administrator level, further safeguards exist to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of PHI. Texts are assigned “message lifespans” so that they automatically delete from a HIPAA compliant texting application after a predetermined period of time. Apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging can also be set to time out after a period of inactivity in order to prevent unauthorized access to PHI when a desktop computer or mobile device is left unattended.

Admins also have the facility to remotely recall messages, remotely delete them from an authorized user´s mobile device or remotely enforce a PIN-lock on the HIPAA compliant texting application. With this capability, healthcare organizations reduce the risk of a breach of PHI in the event that an authorized user´s mobile device or laptop computer is lost, stolen or sold to an unscrupulous purchaser.

The Apps are Easy to Install and Operate

Apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging work across all operating systems and devices, and are as easy to install on desktop computers and mobile devices as any other type of application. They connect with each other through a cloud-based “Software-as-a-Service” secure text messaging platform, so there is no need for healthcare organizations to invest in additional hardware or servers, or to dedicate additional IT resources.

The HIPAA compliant texting application have a familiar text-like interface that authorized users will already be familiar with if they have used SMS, Instant Messaging or other commercially available text messaging apps. The only difference that authorized users will notice is that they have to log into the HIPAA compliant texting application whenever they want to send or read a secure message, or when the app has timed out due to inactivity.

How Secure Texting Improves Productivity

For the purposes of explaining how a HIPAA compliant texting application improves productivity, we are going to draw on the case studies of TigerText. TigerText is a leading supplier of apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging and is currently used in four of the top five for-profit healthcare systems in the country to provide a secure text messaging solution and ensure the integrity of PHI.

In TigerText´s case studies, a common theme is that the secure text messaging solution significantly reduces phone tag due to its advanced delivery notifications. The accelerated flow of communication enables healthcare professionals to enforce accountability, streamline workflows, and spend more time with patients. Apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging have also been shown to foster collaboration between healthcare professionals – further enhancing the service provided to patients.

Secure Text Messaging Case Study

One particularly relevant case study concerns the Memorial Hospital of Gulfport in Mississippi. MHG employs more than one thousand physicians, care providers, nurses and part-time staff, and – prior to the implementation of TigerText – healthcare professionals were communicating with unsecure pagers. Physicians would receive a message and, unsure whether it was urgent, make a phone call to establish the priority of the message.

With TigerText, the nature of the message can be clearly communicated securely so that, in the event of a non-urgent message, physicians can continue to care for a patient and respond at a more convenient time. The Vice-President of the Memorial Hospital of Gulfport has gone on record as saying that, in addition to significantly improving response times and workflow efficiencies, the hospital saves hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Evaluating Apps for HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging

Selecting the right HIPAA compliant texting application is no straightforward task. Although we have referred to TigerText´s case studies in this article, not every off-the-shelf text messaging solution is right for every healthcare organization. Apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging should be evaluated for extensibility, so that if working practices change, technology advances or new legislation is introduced, the text messaging solution can be adapted to cope with any new requirements.

Compatibility with legacy systems and EHRs should also be considered. Forward-thinking healthcare organizations often wish to integrate apps for HIPAA compliant text messaging with answering services and EHRs in order that staff communicate and monitor patients via one unified platform. In many circumstances, a HIPAA compliant texting application will be sufficiently flexible to meet all of a healthcare organization´s current demands, but do not overlook what may be in store in the future.