It’s common for physicians to still text each other about sensitive patient information — it’s quick, easy, but also in violation of HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In addition to several other regulations, HIPAA requires that healthcare providers and organizations enact procedures ensuring that protected health information (or “PHI”, which includes paper, oral and electronic information) remain confidential and secure. However, if healthcare professionals share PHI on standard text messaging services, their messages can be read by just about anyone, meaning cybercriminals can intercept and read the messages in transit. Thus, because regular text messaging is not secure, the doctors and nurses that share PHI via SMS are not only risking paying thousands of dollars in penalties to the government but also lengthy jail sentences.
Fortunately, there are secure electronic messaging applications that healthcare organizations can easily adopt and integrate into their workflow. In doing so, healthcare organizations will be able to both keep patient information safe and protected and increase their efficiency and productivity.
Increasing Efficiency and Productivity In Hospitals
It’s unfortunate, but most healthcare organizations find that HIPAA regulations make it difficult to deliver quality patient care. In fact, the Ponemon Institute conducted a survey and discovered that 51% of healthcare professionals agreed with this statement. In general, they stated that mobile devices and other modern forms of communications would be valuable and time saving, however, security restrictions prohibit the use of these technologies. Specifically, because HIPAA requires absolute security, healthcare organizations often resort to using outdated technologies such as pagers, email, and fax machines. Accordingly, the survey estimated that healthcare professionals frustratingly spend the majority of their day (55%) communicating with other clinicians on slower means of technology, while less time is spent with patients. Of course, this is extremely inefficient and leads to poorer quality patient care, however, it is also very costly — it’s estimated that each year, hospitals in the US lose nearly $8 billion (!) because healthcare professionals relying on outdated forms of technology are more inefficient.
It’s for this reason, that healthcare organizations ought to adopt technologies, such as secure messaging applications, that are both modern and HIPAA compliant. These types of platforms mimic standard texting services, but are secure at all points. In particular, they offer end to end security at the user’s device, encryption during transit, and encryption at rest. Plus, with Nuro Secure Messaging, the platform provides users with an extra cognitive security layer that predicts future breaches. Thus, healthcare organizations that require their employees to communicate on secure messaging applications still give their employees what they originally sought — convenience, ease, mobile use — while also complying with HIPAA regulations.
Keeping Patient Information Safe and Protected
In addition to increasing efficiency and productivity, healthcare organizations should integrate secure messaging because it is the best way to ensure that patient information remains safe and protected. Like I mentioned earlier, because doctors and nurses are often prohibited from texting, they are forced to use pagers, email, and even fax machines. But, just like standard text messaging, these forms of communication are also not 100% secure.
It’s true, HIPAA does not prevent healthcare organizations from faxing PHI, as long as they follow the “minimum necessary” rule, which stipulates that the shared information in the fax holds only the minimum amount of necessary information. However, because fax machines sit in open areas and are accessible to anyone who walks by, all expectations of security and privacy inherently fly out the window. In addition, physicians might send a fax containing PHI to the wrong number — this is a very common HIPAA violation.
The same goes for email. Email, while widely popular in healthcare organizations, is rarely a secure means of communication. There are many reasons for this. First, because once the email leaves the sender’s server and floats to the recipient’s server, then there’s a gap of time in which someone can intercept the information. Second, the network systems connected to the email servers can also be easily compromised.
Again, fortunately, secure text messaging solves each of the problems that come with standard text messaging, fax, and email. There is no reason why hospitals should be the only ones stuck in the dark ages, relying on fax machines and pagers to communicate with each other, when most other industries have moved on. If healthcare organizations were to adopt secure messaging platforms, not only would they potentially save billions of dollars, but their doctors would be working more efficiently and productively, as well. This is, of course, in addition to ensuring that personal information belonging to patients are secure and protected. In the past two years, 81% of healthcare organizations have had a data breach; thus, the only way to effectively lower this statistic is for healthcare professionals to universally embrace secure messaging.