The Latest Healthcare Trend? HIPAA-Compliant Text Messaging

In the U.S., HIPAA-compliant text messaging has emerged as one of the fastest growing trends in the healthcare sector.

On the heels of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other industry developments, healthcare organizations and practitioners face intense pressure to strike a better balance between cost efficiencies and improved patient care. Although enterprise-class messaging offers a ready-made solution for both issues, HIPAA regulations have created a unique slate of challenges for the use of text messaging in healthcare environments.

Until now. Changing industry attitudes combined with advances in secure enterprise messaging technology are making HIPAA-compliant text messaging an attractive option for healthcare providers.

Why HIPAA-Compliant Text Messaging Matters

Enacted in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) included provisions to protect the privacy of patient information as well as national standards for electronic health transactions.

Although some practitioners have used messaging on an informal basis, the majority of industry stakeholders have historically relied on communication technologies with limited functionality (e.g., pagers), largely due to a lack of robust HIPAA-compliant text messaging solutions.

Regulatory bodies have also presented a serious barrier to the use of text messaging in healthcare. For many years, providers were not permitted to use text messaging to electronically share information about patient care. But recently, The Joint Commission lifted the ban on text messaging for patient care orders, with the caveat that messages must be shared on a secure text messaging platform.

Even though some healthcare providers were already implementing enterprise messaging for other activities, The Joint Commission’s decision cleared the way for a greater reliance on compliant messaging solution in patient care scenarios.

HIPAA-Compliant Text Messaging: A Primer

HIPAA was enacted for a variety of reasons. In addition to providing insurance protections for workers who change or lose their jobs, the legislation implemented safeguards against the unauthorized disclosure of patients’ electronic protected health information (ePHI), recognizing that the digital sharing of information introduces new threats to patient confidentiality.

To prevent the theft or loss of patient data, the HIPAA Security Rule offers guidelines for the handling, transmission and storage of PHI by healthcare organizations. These guidelines include requirements in three critical areas: administrative safeguards physical safeguards and technical safeguards.

Administrative Safeguards (45 C.F.R. 164.308)

HIPAA administrative safeguards address the way ePHI is handled and managed across the organization. When it comes healthcare mobile messaging solutions, administrative safeguards cover the development and implementation of security processes as well as the way in which healthcare employees use secure messaging solutions in their daily work routines.

Physical Safeguards (45 C.F.R. 164.310)

Unlike administrative and technical safeguards, physical safeguards cover the tangible infrastructure that is in place to protect the security of patient data and PHI. From digital servers to the buildings in which servers are housed, HIPAA-compliant text messaging requires physical measures that insulate protected data against human and natural threats.

Technical Safeguards (45 C.F.R. 164.312)

Technical safeguards specify the measures and protocols that are most commonly associated with data security. But in addition to requiring healthcare organizations to use robust and secure enterprise messaging solutions, HIPAA-compliant text messaging technical safeguards also include organizational policies for using technology to access and share ePHI.

HIPAA-Compliant Text Messaging With NetSfere

NetSfere is the first choice in secure messaging technology for today’s healthcare organizations. An enterprise-class messaging service from Infinite Convergence Solutions, NetSfere is a fully HIPAA-compliant text messaging technology that enables providers to effortlessly comply with administrative, physical and technical safeguards of the Security Rule and other HIPAA requirements.

To learn more about how NetSfere can help your organization tap into the benefits of fully compliant messaging, download our recent white paper, “Bridging the Gap in Healthcare: Improving Patient Care and Operational Efficiency with Secure Mobile Messaging” or contact us today.