7 Advantages of HIPAA Complaint Texting
Acronyms mean a lot to healthcare professionals, more so perhaps than in any other job. For example here’s a list of 362 acronyms found on the Center For Medicare & Medicaid website — and that’s just the letter “A.” But, if you talk with any healthcare professional for long enough, you’ll eventually find one acronym coming up over and over again: HIPAA.
HIPAA is a federal mandate that requires specific security and privacy protections for Protected Health Information (PHI), things like medical history, insurance information and other healthcare data. It’s a big deal, governing not only what healthcare professionals can say about patients, but to whom they can say it to, and how they can say it. Protecting patient information is a top concern for hospitals, clinics and all healthcare professionals.
As with any regulation, however, HIPAA also can cause friction with how healthcare professionals do their jobs, particularly when it comes to technology. While technology moves at the speed of innovation, often operating a few years ahead of the general population, HIPAA doesn’t budge, so healthcare technology has to be built around it. This creates a particularly acute problem when it comes to communication.
One of healthcare workers’ main frustrations is slow communication that can hamper their ability to do their jobs. Communication breakdowns between healthcare workers have a direct effect on patient care and can create unhappy patients, and can also be frustrating for the people trying to do their jobs.
Improving communication between healthcare professionals offers immediate benefits, but the options to do that are myriad, expensive and sometimes risky. Additionally, large hospital systems and provider networks are often highly invested in legacy technology systems, and evaluating new secure communication apps can seem more like a distraction than an imperative. The healthcare industry, as a result, has been slow to adopt a solution for the type of fast, easy, cross-team communication that is so desperately needed. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals have turned to SMS texting — which is not HIPAA compliant messaging — to fill that gap.
With this in mind, we put together a list of seven advantages of HIPAA compliant texting apps.
- Security: New technology has given busy healthcare professionals new methods of communication to use in their personal lives, such as texting and messaging apps like WhatsApp, and they’re bringing those non-HIPAA compliant texting apps to work. With 81 percent of doctors using a personal smartphone to communicate PHI or access patient data, it’s imperative that organizations provide a HIPAA compliant alternative to texting and for healthcare workers to communicate.
- Reliability: The healthcare industry runs on data, so healthcare organizations can’t afford downtime. Mobile messaging apps help improve reliability in a few important ways. They can fall back to cellular networks when there’s an internet outage, and can also provide an additional communications system should there be an email or phone system outage. Lastly, some HIPAA compliant text messaging apps include the ability to send custom alerts in case any business-critical systems go down.
- Alignment: Healthcare professionals waste more than 45 minutes each day thanks to inefficient communication systems. But, the days of using pagers are nearing an end as secure texting apps now give providers the ability to get more done quickly. Apps with file sharing, mobile alert capabilities, video and image streaming, project management solutions, and integrations with online electronic medical record tools can keep teams aligned and help them see patients more quickly.
- Speed: Treating patients quickly is a top goal for healthcare organizations, and communication is essential to getting that done. Discharge rates can improve by as much as 20 percent with a secure messaging app
- Accessibility: Giving providers a single, intuitive way to access information and people is essential so they don’t have to log into multiple platforms or risk moving information between different systems. HIPAA compliant texting apps can offer instant access to documents, images and resources directly inside of a conversation, so a provider doesn’t have switch apps (or context) to access critical information.
- Collaboration: When facilitating effective communication around a patient’s care, it’s essential that providers can easily access each other to share knowledge and ideas and build an effective treatment plan. Unfortunately, something as simple as not having another person’s phone number often inhibits that. Most secure messaging apps can make sure all providers can easily collaborate in the same place.
- Innovation: Inefficient communication tools cost the healthcare industry $11 billion per year, and the same study found that among the top inhibitors of organizational efficiencies was the inability to send text messages. HIPAA compliant messaging solutions provide the same on-demand access to people and resources as texting.
While HIPAA may rule the medical world, it doesn’t have to prevent hospitals and other medical organizations from having modern communication tools that their employees will love to use.