PHI and HIPAA Compliance for Text Messaging

PHI and HIPAA Compliance for Text Messaging

The Rules Governing PHI and HIPAA Compliance for Text Messaging

The rules governing PHI and HIPAA compliance for text messaging are contained within the administrative, physical and technical safeguards of the Security Rule. The rules state that security measures must be put in place to control access to PHI, monitor how it is used, and make sure that it is not inappropriately altered or destroyed.

To comply with these rules, HIPAA covered entities must introduce mechanisms that enforce ID authentication and transmission security. This means that any channel of communication used to send text messages containing PHI must have a logon/logoff function and the messages themselves must be protected from unauthorized access.

For many healthcare organizations, these rules present a problem. Such has been the growth of BYOD in recent years that four-in-five medical professionals are now using personal mobile devices to access and communicate PHI. Communication channels such as SMS, IM and email lack the necessary mechanisms for ID authentication and transmission security, and consequently fail to comply with the rules governing PHI and HIPAA compliance for text messaging.

How Secure Messaging Solutions Comply with HIPAA

Secure messaging solutions fulfil the rules governing PHI and HIPAA compliance for text messaging by establishing a network of communication within a healthcare organization or medical facility. Medical professionals access the network via secure messaging apps that can be downloaded onto desktop computers and mobile devices.

Before gaining access to the network – and to enable the monitoring of activity on the network – medical professionals must login to the app using a centrally-issued username and PIN. This login procedure also enables the remote deletion of messages containing PHI if a mobile device is lost or stolen. The apps automatically logout of the network after a period of inactivity to prevent unauthorized access to PHI if a desktop computer or mobile device is left unattended.

The content of messages and any attachments are encrypted to protect PHI from being intercepted over open Wi-Fi networks and further security measures prevent PHI being inappropriately altered or destroyed, sent outside of a secure communications network or saved onto an external hard drive. All communications conducted through a secure messaging solution are fully accountable – as are the medical professionals that use the solution.

The Benefits of Secure Messaging

In addition to helping healthcare organizations adhere to the rules governing PHI and HIPAA compliance for text messaging, secure messaging offers many benefits. With 100% message accountability, delivery notifications and read receipts, phone tag is reduced and processes such as hospital admissions and patient discharges are accelerated.

Medical professionals can receive PHI “on the go” with secure messaging – increasing the efficiency of on-call physicians and community nurses – while lab reports, test results and wound images can be sent and received securely. A group messaging function fosters collaboration, helping to provide a higher standard of healthcare to patients.

The cost-effectiveness of secure messaging is also a major consideration. Secure messaging solutions cost nothing to install and have very low operating costs. There is no hardware to buy, no complicated software that will exhaust the resources of an IT departments and – due to the familiar text-like interfaces of the secure messaging apps – medical professionals will need little instruction on how to use them.