Secure Text Messaging For Healthcare
How to Comply with HIPAA for Secure Text Messaging for Healthcare
Secure text messaging for healthcare is a communication software product (similar to native texting on an iPhone or Android device) that allows clinicians to securely text protected health information (PHI) without violating HIPAA compliance. A secure text messaging solution for healthcare will include an application on the phone (or desktop) of the clinician sending the secure text message. When a clinician sends a text message, this app encrypts the message and it is instantly sent to a secure server (in the cloud if you have a modern clinical communication platform like Halo). The encrypted message is securely stored, then retrieved by the receiving clinician on the same app that unencrypts the message for reading. This entire process happens instantly. Messages are encrypted and secure in transit and at rest as required for HIPAA compliance using secure texting.
In recent years, as pioneered by Halo, secure text messaging for healthcare has become part of a clinical communication platform that can include secure messaging, voice, schedules and integrations, all in one platform used by clinicians who launch the application on a desktop or (most often) a mobile device.
A more advanced secure text messaging solution will mimic native texting applications from Apple and Android devices so that users can easily orient to using the new application – if they can text, they can do secure text messaging. Of course, secure text messaging for healthcare isn’t the same as sending a quick emoji to a friend. These more advanced applications have many features that enhance clinician communication. The challenge for healthcare communication companies is to create simple interfaces that are easy to use, but still allow robust features to handle the complexities of healthcare communication.
Common features of secure text messaging for healthcare include message status: Sent, Delivered and Read receipts. Message status takes the form of time stamps on message threads so clinicians (and admins auditing messages) know when these critical messages have been read. Another important feature for secure text messaging for healthcare is allowing clinicians to create a separate thread for each patient (known as Safe Text from Halo),ensuring that there is no confusion about which patient you are talking about when all messages between two clinicians are in one thread, as is the case with standard texting.
The clinician workflow experts at Halo have developed more advanced features for secure text messaging for healthcare that address the complexities of healthcare communication to improve efficiency and protect patients from delays of care and clinicians from alert fatigue and burnout.
Some of these advanced features include:
- Patient Centric Messaging - integrates with your health system’s ADT feed to pull more patient information into the thread.
- Halo Gatekeeper – allows authorized staff to screen messages when a clinician is unavailable (ie. in surgery, with a patient, etc.), so there are less interruptions and delays of care.
- Auto-forwarding with Sender Notification – allows clinicians to forward messages to another provider for a period of time. The sender will be notified ahead of time in case they don’t want to send to the covering clinician.
- Message Attachments – attach documents, high-resolution photos, videos and voice memos when texting isn’t enough.
- Urgent Status – mark messages as urgent and customize your settings to get different notification sounds.
- Groups – create personal and ad hoc groups.
- Off-Duty Status – mark yourself Off-Duty for specific times (with emergency override available).
- Backup Message Escalation – identify backup escalation contacts when you are busy and can’t receive messages.
- Message Reminders – receive notifications when someone doesn’t read a message in a certain amount of time, reminding you to reach out again. This saves clinicians from constantly checking to see if a person has read an important message.
- Quick Notes – leverage pre-loaded common messages to eliminate unnecessary typing and enable faster communication.
- Voice Command – dictate a message that is automatically converted to text.
- Call Back Button – quickly call someone back without having to look up a phone number.
- Preview Receipts – see the status of a clinician (Off Duty, forwarding messages, etc.) before spending time typing out a message.
- Org Screen – customize an org-specific screen to conveniently serve up the healthcare organization’s phone directory, provider list, staff list, call schedules and more.
- Halo NPI Database – find and connect with any physician, NP, or PA in the country that is outside your organization.
All these advanced features related to secure text messaging for healthcare work together with the Halo Clinical Communication Platform’s Schedules, Voice, and Integrations. Halo’s Schedule system allows admins to create a custom schedule for advanced workflows, or import existing schedules so that Halo becomes the one source of truth for all on-call schedules. Embedding a robust schedule solution in the core of Halo ensures that critical information and messages are sent to the right person at the right time, with minimal effort. This enables what we call role-based communication – clinicians no longer have to waste time finding out who is on call (often searching through various sources, playing phone tag, interrupting the wrong doctor who’s with a patient or sleeping in the middle of the night). They can simply type in the role they are looking for, such as Cardiologist On Call, and send to that role, and the message instantly goes to the right clinician. This saves time, aggravation, burnout, delays of care, and even lives.
Why Patients are at Risk Without Secure Text Messaging for Healthcare
Patient-related care is the #1 reason clinicians text on the job. Regular texting helps improve communication efficiency (i.e. not wasting time on phone calls or worse, playing phone tag with physicians all day), but is not secure (not encrypted in rest or in transit) and places health systems at risk for fines from violating HIPAA compliance.
Protected Health Information
Numerous high-profile data breaches have underscored the importance of complying with HIPAA privacy rules. Secure texting is one line of defense to avoid inadvertent exposure of protected health information (PHI),locking down all the messages so providers don’t have to think about HIPAA compliance. Without a solution like secure text messaging for healthcare, patient information is vulnerable to hacking and dissemination, violating the privacy of patients in a healthcare system.
Physicians rarely work alone these days. More and more, patients are treated by teams of providers who collaborate to deliver coordinated patient care. But unless the right tools are in place for systemwide communication, teams can’t function as effectively as possible.
This is why secure texting is not only crucial for HIPAA compliance, it’s also a key component for care coordination.
As defined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, care coordination encompasses sharing information across functions, sites and people to meet patient needs. Coordination happens between primary care physicians and specialists, between in-hospital providers and ambulatory teams, between doctors and nurses, and countless other combinations.
Secure text messaging for healthcare improves care coordination throughout a healthcare system.
Communication is faster. The core of care coordination is the timely delivery of information to the people who need it. With secure messaging, healthcare professionals can communicate directly. They can send complete messages without working through an answering service or playing phone tag. A primary care physician needing a consult can contact a specialist using the secure platform, and within minutes the specialist can respond and collaborate.
Mistakes are averted. Robust, multifunctional messaging platforms include features designed to streamline communication and prevent errors. Escalating notification systems ensure that essential communication doesn’t go unread. Sophisticated software can group messages into threads so that it’s always clear what patient is being discussed. And, specialized hand-off systems provide efficient ways for providers to leave notes for the next on-call provider.
Communication is a crucial component of care coorindation. That’s why so many healthcare systems are making sure their organization is positioned to communicate efficiently and safely with secure text messaging for healthcare.
You can learn more about Halo’s secure text messaging for healthcare solution and how it works with the full Halo Clinical Communication Platform here.
To get a demonstration of how Halo’s Clinical Communication Platform can improve clinician communication efficiency, secure your communication for HIPAA compliance, reduce delays of care, and help decrease clinician burnout in your healthcare organization, go to our Request a Demo page and fill out the brief form. One of our clinical workflow experts will reach out to set up a convenient time.