Guide to Secure Healthcare Text Messaging Apps
A healthcare messaging app is one of the simplest ways of complying with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. Having the same convenience and speed as SMS messaging, secure healthcare text messaging apps ensure the integrity of protected health information (PHI) in transit, while saving your organization time and money.
This guide to secure healthcare text messaging apps has been compiled for HIPAA-covered entities that have not yet considered a secure app for texting in healthcare as a compliant communications solution. We hope that the information below is of value; and, if it raises any questions regarding HIPAA compliance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
What is a Healthcare Messaging App?
A healthcare messaging app is an advanced piece of software that can be downloaded onto desktop computers and mobile devices. It allows authorized users to access PHI and communicate PHI to other authorized users within a private network. However, safeguards exist so that the PHI cannot be saved to individual devices, copied and pasted or sent outside of the network.
Secure healthcare text messaging apps work across multiple operating systems, so they are ideal for organizations that encourage BYOD policies. As long as secure texting policies are provided so that employees are aware of when and how the healthcare messaging app should be used, an individual user can be connected to the network and ready to message securely within minutes.
Because of the app´s similarity to other popular (but unsecure) messaging apps, individual users require no training on its use except for how to log into and out of the software. Activity on the secure app for texting in healthcare is monitored by access reports to ensure compliant use, and also to identify threats to the integrity of the PHI that is being communicated.
How Does a Secure App for Texting in Healthcare Work?
It is very simple. If an authorized user wants to communicate PHI with another authorized user, they simply log into their healthcare messaging app with a unique username and PIN. They then write a text message as they would normally do on any unsecure channel of communications. Images and files can be attached to the text message and, once the sender clicks “send”, the recipient of the message receives a notification that a secure message is waiting to be read. The sender of the message receives their own notification to inform them that the message has been received.
The recipient logs into his or her secure app for texting in healthcare and reads the message. The sender of a message receives a notification that their message has been read. The recipient can now reply to the original message, forward it onto another authorized user, or invite multiple users to a group thread.
The Benefits of Delivery Notifications and Read Receipts
One of the major obstacles to efficiency within the healthcare industry is phone tag – when medical professionals or administrators have to leave a message and, when they do not receive a reply, send a follow-up message to ensure the first one was received. In everyday administrative procedures, phone tag can be time-consuming and frustrating, but in critical emergency situations, phone tag can be the difference between life and death.
Because TigerText´s healthcare messaging app provides delivery notifications and read receipts, senders of messages are advised immediately when a message has been received – and that it has been received by the intended recipient. If an immediately-required answer is not forthcoming, the sender of the message can they try contact through a secondary channel of communication, or know to get the answers they need from another source. (TigerText´s secure app for texting in healthcare also has an “Out of Office” facility).
The benefits of delivery notifications and read receipts is that phone-tag is practically eliminated, with the result that workflows are streamlined and productivity is increased. One survey by the Ponemon Institute estimated that the cost of phone tag to the healthcare industry was $8.3 billion per year. These two features of TigerText´s secure healthcare text messaging apps have been credited with saving the Memorial Hospital of Gulfport hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
How a Secure App for Texting in Healthcare Remains Secure
We have already mentioned some of the security measures integrated into a healthcare messaging app so that it remains secure – safeguards to prevent unauthorized access, to prevent saving data to an external mechanism or sending PHI outside an organization´s network. We have also mentioned that activity on the secure app for texting in healthcare is monitored to identify the threat of a PHI breach. But there is one very important security measure that has not been discussed yet – PIN lock.
Most PHI breaches occur because medical professionals lose mobile phones containing PHI. As TigerText´s secure healthcare text messaging apps do not store any sensitive data, you might not consider the loss, theft or sale of a mobile phone to be an issue. But should the recipient of the mobile phone also discover the username and PIN number, they would have access to all the PHI stored on an organization’s servers.
Consequently, the platform to which TigerText´s secure app for texting in healthcare connects has the facility for administrators to PIN lock an individual device and remotely delete any notifications that have been received on the mobile phone. This facility to remote delete notifications can also be applied to text messages sent on the healthcare messaging app if it is believed that they may represent a threat to the integrity of an organization´s PHI.
Other Benefits of Secure Healthcare Text Messaging Apps
TigerText´s secure healthcare text messaging apps have been implemented in more than 5,000 medical facilities and we currently process more than 150 million secure text messages every day. Consequently we seen healthcare organizations from large hospital networks to small private practices experience many benefits of secure healthcare text messaging apps:
- A healthcare messaging app can improved the accuracy of appointment scheduling
- The efficiency and speed of hospital admissions can be improved with secure messaging
- Emergency room hand-offs can be managed with a secure app for texting in healthcare
- X-rays and wound images can be delivered faster with secure text messaging
- Lab results can be accessed by secure healthcare text messaging apps
- On-call physicians can receive PHI on the go with secure texting
- Community nurses can escalate patient concerns securely with a healthcare messaging app
- Secure healthcare text messaging apps foster collaboration in a medical facility
- Patient discharge wait times are reduced with secure text messaging
- Audit trails can be created with a healthcare messaging app to monitor prescription handoffs
- Pharmacists can use a secure app for texting in healthcare to confirm prescription orders
- Health insurance companies can process claims with secure text messaging
Examples of the benefits of secure healthcare text messaging threads can be found among our case studies. From these case studies, we feel that the following are the most relevant to organizations considering a healthcare messaging app as a HIPAA-compliant communications solution:
The implementation of TigerText´s secure app for texting in healthcare at the Houston Fertility Institute resulted in the organization create a reliable system for securely recording patients´ notes. Scheduling accuracy improved by 20% and an 80% reduction in phone tag was recorded
Community nurses at Optimal Health Services were able to escalate patient concerns using TigerText´s healthcare messaging app, which also became part of the organization’s emergency disaster plan when communications were able to continue during a two-hour outage at their answering service provider.
NAMM California gave TigerText the opportunity to streamline the organization’s communication over a 60-day pilot period. Our healthcare messaging app was so successful in the patient discharge process that the organization eliminated 30 inpatient bed days per month.