Texting is one of the best methods for quick results, but is it HIPAA compliant? Luckily, we have all your HIPAA compliant texting questions answered in our complete guide below. In our article, we talk about how you can ensure your texts are HIPAA compliant and easy ways you can get started today.
Keep reading on for more information!
What Is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a well-known federal law in the health field. It was created in 1996, laying out a set of standards to protect patient health information. There are two primary components to HIPAA:
- Privacy Rule
- Security Rule
When HIPAA was initially created, there were no guidelines for protecting patients’ health information. At the time, technology was evolving and placing more risks for transferring information across electronic methods.
The Privacy Rule protects patients’ medical records and other health information. It also applies to health plans and clearinghouses that conduct health care transactions.
The Privacy Rule also regulates how you can use and disclose information. Ultimately, it places the rights back to the patients and allows them to direct how their information is distributed to other entities.
As the name sounds, the Security Rule protects how information is held or transferred in electronic forms. It also allows entities to use new technology while maintaining quality patient care. Ultimately, the Security Rule is scalable, making it flexible for adapting businesses.
What Entities Fall Under the Privacy and Security Rule?
The Security Rule includes any entities that transmit electronic information. It is more of a guideline on how to transfer information. The Privacy Rule includes entities such as:
- Health plans
- Health care providers
- Health care clearinghouses
- Business associates
While the Security Rule covers electronic transfers, the Privacy Rule also includes oral and written. Under these guidelines, the information protected includes:
- Past, present, or future physical or mental health conditions
- Deliverance of health care
Ultimately, it is any information that could be used to identify a patient.
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) enforces the Privacy and Security Rule. There are two penalties that entities or individuals are at risk for HIPAA violations:
- Civil violations
- Criminal penalties
Civil violations can total $50,000 per violation. However, willful neglect without timely correction can accrue an annual maximum fine of $1.5 million.
Criminal penalties are under the Department of Justice’s jurisdiction. With some severe offenses, an individual could face five to ten years in prison.
Common HIPAA Violations
Unless you are willfully selling patients’ health information, most HIPAA violations happen unknowingly. There are two primary types of HIPAA violations:
- Organization or business
Organizational HIPAA violations can happen when businesses or hospitals don’t provide adequate HIPAA training. They could also break HIPAA guidelines if they don’t have the infrastructure to secure electronic health information.
During the first half of this year, healthcare data breaches have doubled last year’s reports during the same period. With data breaches on the rise, it is even more vital that you adhere to security guidelines. It is also crucial that you update your tech support and data security.
Individual HIPAA violations are primarily mitigated through proper employee training. Most times, employees break HIPAA violations when discussing patient information casually in open areas or over unsecured lines. HIPAA violations can occur when employees share patient information with unauthorized parties.
Patient Texting Systems
Anyone in the medical field must comply with HIPAA regulations. While some employees may avoid discussing sensitive patient information in open areas or with unauthorized individuals, most don’t even think about texting violations.
Texting can be a HIPAA-compliant method of communication. Messaging is an excellent tool for:
- Improved communication
- Improved patient-driven care
- Improved productivity and efficiency
It allows your team to communicate with each other closely. Additionally, it opens opportunities for contacting specialists or emergency physicians at a moment’s notice. Automated text messaging can reduce no-shows and cancellations.
The texts you may have received before a doctor’s appointment streamline the check-in process. Before the pandemic, texting was a new technology not yet fully integrated.
Although it is still in its infancy, telehealth has sped its integration along. During the height of the pandemic, 30.2% of routine medical visits used telehealth. Allied health professionals have more opportunities to work remotely or in other regions.
While these developments are exciting, you need a reliable and safe way to communicate between employees. Most don’t consider the HIPAA violations texting could present.
What Is HIPAA Compliant Texting?
HIPAA compliant texting ensures a secure line for texting patients or employees. It protects the transmission of health information and protects against data leaks. Here are some requirements that secure texting must meet:
- Encrypted data
- Access restrictions
Texting lines must have restrictions in place. You should be able to customize which employees have access to patient information. Additionally, HIPPA compliant texting uses controls for how authorized parties use information.
As you can imagine, traditional smartphones don’t meet these requirements. Standard SMS messaging requires carefully crafted texts.
You cannot use any patient identifiers, which makes it challenging to communicate effectively. Instead, you need a HIPAA compliant second line.
HIPAA Compliant Second Line 101
A HIPAA compliant second line includes:
- Text messaging
Typically, one app handles these three lines of communication. The most widely used portion is the HIPAA compliant texting portion. The iPlum app works a bit differently than other messaging systems.
You won’t need the same app on both ends. Instead, iPlum gives you a unique mobile phone number. It has fully secure texting and calling abilities. You can set unique ringtones, backgrounds, and notifications.
The iPlum app provides you with two different settings: traditional and secure. You can use your traditional SMS for standard messaging. When you need to, simply switch over to your secure line.
Benefits of HIPAA Compliant Texting
A HIPAA compliant second line gives you secure texting at your fingertips (literally and figuratively). A secure second line is beneficial for patients and providers. Some of the things you can communicate via text are:
- Treatment plans
- Lab results
- Plan of care adjustments
For example, a patient can text about drug side effects. They might inquire about changes in medical status.
In return, a physician can advise on whether a patient should schedule an appointment. It provides quicker responses and addresses smaller medical issues.
This saves patients and physicians time and money. Implementing a secure second line helps coordinate patient care. Therapists can schedule co-treatments or ask about interventions.
Physicians can send a quick message to the pharmacist about a patient prescription. The list goes on.
Ultimately, it benefits your clinic by adding another tool for patient-driven care. As more clientele becomes involved, it can boost patient rapport and outcomes. Lastly, texting solutions help with emergency updates.
Secure messaging allows managers to send public health announcements. This ensures fast and reliable delivery. If you need additional work hours, text messaging lines are ideal for your PRN staff.
Unique iPlum Texting Features
A secure second texting line eliminates complications when it comes to working. Instead, there are several features that can boost productivity, such as:
- Auto text reply
- Text archiving
- Data backup
- Text to email
- Text templates
If you find yourself sending similar texts, set up a template. This is an excellent feature for standard follow-up questions to patients. It still demonstrates quality care and boosts patient rapport.
With enhanced backup plans, you can choose the option to receive texts via email. Lastly, you can rest easy knowing your texts have ultimate encryption and data protection.
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HIPAA Texting Solutions FAQs
When it comes to keeping your health practice up and running smoothly, the last thing you want to think about is implementing a new texting system. Luckily, iPlum is easy to navigate and works seamlessly with your smart device. Additionally, it gives you a free download option for your patients.
1. Is iPlum HIPAA Compliant?
Yes – iPlum follows HIPAA and HITECH security regulations, which apply to:
- Healthcare professionals
- Insurance companies
- Third-party service providers
What makes iPlum secure is innovative encryption services. Encryption policies also allow administrators to lock information in case of stolen devices.
2. Do You Need a HIPAA Compliant Line?
This answer is a bit of a gray area. Technically, you don’t need a second HIPAA line. There are other ways you can protect patient data.
Another solution is a VPN. Using a VPN creates a secure line between two devices. However, VPNs can become expensive and are less flexible than text messaging solutions.
It is essential to mention that there are no federal guidelines requiring your practice to use a secure line. You can eliminate patient health information transmitted via text. Doing this will require extensive employee training that addresses what you can and cannot include as patient identifiers.
Ultimately, this can slow your communication and how you implement treatment plans. Switching to a secure line is an easy and cost-friendly option that helps you avoid costly fines.
3. Does iPlum Replace Your Current Phone Number?
When you download the iPlum app, you get a second phone number. This number is entirely separate from your personal cell number. You can think of it as a business phone number attached to your device.
It should have separate notifications, ringtones, and alerts. You can customize it as you would your personal number, but you will continue receiving messages on both numbers without a problem.
4. Do Patients Need to Know About Texting?
It is not required that patients sign off on texting between physicians. If you want to text your patients, HIPAA policies advise that you ask for consent first. When patients opt-in to texting programs, they acknowledge the risk of data hacks.
It is also wise to ask for patient consent about using texts since it can avoid violations if a patient’s health information is viewed by unauthorized personnel.
5. Does iPlum Limit Accessibility?
Yes, iPlum limits user accessibility. If an employee loses their phone, you will have access to lock and restrict unauthorized access.
As a manager or director, it gives you excellent insight into how your team interacts and uses technology. Most apps have data analytics that gives you insight into patient and therapist interactions.
6. Does iPlum Work Internationally?
Approximately 70% of Americans plan to travel this year. While traveling abroad or out of state has picked up, you might run into the unthinkable: a medical complication. For some, it may be something as simple as a medication question.
For others, it could warrant a trip to an out-of-network provider. Before they head down the worst-case scenario, it helps to be able to reliably connect with your primary care physician or therapist. Using iPlum allows international calls.
If a provider has connections in another state or country, they can connect you with ongoing medical care. The best part is these calls and texts remain HIPAA compliant.
Securing Your Patient Texting Systems
Patient texting systems are only becoming more prevalent. The health field benefits from technological advances to improve patient care and communication. Whether you need a texting system between providers or patients, iPlum has you covered.
Don’t risk your employees breaking HIPAA violations. Instead, start utilizing a HIPAA compliant texting system to give yourself peace of mind. Are you ready to get started?
Check out our pricing list and find which plans work for your clinic!