Maybe your practice is adapting to social distancing and limited in-office visits. Maybe you’re choosing to be more accessible to patients using technology. Either way, using texting for patients improves communication and workflow. Issues with HIPAA make integrating new technology difficult in the healthcare industry. It’s not enough to say that your patients will enjoy a new channel of communication. You’ll need to prove that your new communication qualifies as HIPAA texting. That way, you’re protecting your patient’s privacy and personal information.
The question often asked: Is HIPAA-compliant texting possible? Some professionals say it isn’t. In this guide, you’ll learn all about HIPAA-compliant text messages and how you can achieve them without risk to your patients and practice.
Concerns About HIPAA-Compliant Texting
HIPAA policies can get very complicated. The simple answer is that regular texting is not a secure channel of communication.
HIPAA requires absolute certainty of security for personal health information. Text messaging is very difficult to secure.
Lack of Access to Controls
When employees use personal devices to send messages, it’s impossible to ensure control. These devices are vulnerable to hacking and theft. These devices can also be picked up by others when no one is looking.
Regular texting and messaging are only as safe as the network. Third parties can view the information sent over unsecured networks. It isn’t safe to allow employees to use their own numbers to text patients.
Lack of Audit Controls
Along with a lack of control is a lacking ability to audit data. Someone can delete messages and/or alter files. HIPAA requires that audit controls are available for all information sent. That way, an auditor can review times of creation, access, sharing, modification, and deletion.
HIPAA text messaging must allow for this auditing in all communication with patients.
Lack of Encryption Abilities
Normal text messaging is not secure on the device or in transit to another device. Encryption is essential for all stages of sending personal health information. That way, the information is private and only viewed by the intended party.
Penalties for HIPAA Noncompliance
If you’re participating in practices that are noncompliant with HIPAA, you can expect some penalties. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights is in charge of HIPAA compliance and issuing penalties.
To begin with, you will have financial penalties. These financial penalties are tiered according to the knowledge that the entity had of the violation. It also involves several other general factors that rank the seriousness of the violation.
You’ll need to also follow a corrective plan that helps your practice follow HIPAA policies.
Does HIPAA Prohibit Texting Personal Health Information?
Despite all these valid concerns, HIPAA does not prohibit sending personal health information through text messaging. Instead, it outlines the conditions under which this messaging must happen.
HIPAA recommends that facilities ask patients to opt-in to text messaging communication. Facilities should ask patients to allow contact through text, and they should document this consent. Patients should know that unauthorized disclosure is possible when they opt-in.
This policy ensures that patients understand and accept the risks of HIPAA texting. It also protects the facility from backlash in the case of personal health information being wrongly viewed.
How Can My Facility Achieve HIPAA Texting?
There are many concerns about communicating personal health information. It is now easier than ever, though, to use texting in a HIPAA-compliant fashion.
Attribute this ease to HIPAA’s 1996 addition. This addition acknowledges how facilities are affected by new technology.
What’s the best way to take advantage of this opportunity for new channels of communication without breaking HIPAA rules? Adapt a HIPAA-compliant app that allows for messaging.
These apps include all the controls and encryption abilities necessary for HIPAA. In turn, they satisfy the concerns brought up by skeptical professionals.
You still need to follow all the rules of the Minimum Necessary Standard from HIPAA. Make sure to include all the necessary safeguards in your practice.
How Do HIPAA-Compliant Apps Work?
HIPAA-compliant texting apps allow healthcare facilities to communicate with patients through a text-like service. Any patient who is familiar with messaging through other platforms will be able to adapt.
What makes these apps safe is that they operate on a secure, encrypted network. They also provide access and audit controls to meet all the standards for HIPAA communications.
The apps archive all personal health information communicated between facility and patient on a cloud. This cloud keeps the data separate from all other data. It is private and secure and also allows for the review of all interactions with the information.
Your facility can control permissions for access and use of the data. You can also remotely lock the app in the case that their device is lost, stolen, or hacked.
You can even integrate these apps with your EMR systems. All your information can be viewed in one place and you can easily transfer data throughout your channels.
In addition to all these great controls, you can also run analytics reports. These reports allow you to analyze how your teams are doing. You can see how departments interact with each other and patients so that you can identify any issues.
Safely Communicate With Your Patients
HIPAA texting isn’t so scary after all. With the right app, you can take full advantage of modern channels of communication. In turn, you’ll improve patient experience and facility workflow.
iPlum is a leading provider of HIPAA-compliant texting services, and also offers HD calling, voicemail, recording, fax, and more. Get started with HIPAA-compliant texting and calling today!