Communication tools have quickly evolved in the last decade. Things changed forever in June of 2007 with the introduction of the first iPhone. From this spurred the technology and user desire for the smartphone. It became less a phone and more a way to communicate in various other ways. The smartphone is ever present in healthcare settings as well. But when used as a device to communicate about and with patients, it must be secure and HIPAA-compliant. If you aren’t using a secure texting platform and just your SMS application, there could be serious repercussions.Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend. A Journal of Hospital Medicine (JHM) survey found that while many clinicians still hold onto pagers, more are turning their smartphones, using them to message patient data. Most of this is occurring outside of a secure texting platform.
JHA sought to understand the pulse of communication technologies used in the modern healthcare setting. This included inquiries about pagers, standard text messaging, and secure text messaging, in reference to patient care information. They researchers wanted to know how they were using technology to facilitate communication. The survey was nationwide.
The raw data revealed the continued reliance on pagers—even though they have severe limitations. (See our post Smartphones vs. Pagers to compare.) Over 79% of respondent said they carried hospital issued pagers.Another 53% said they used standard text messaging for protected health information (PHI). That’s over half that are currently participating in a noncompliant act! Texting information itself is not a HIPAA violation; it’s the process that was used. This can cost your organization with fines, fees or losing Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) funding. Such a case can be found in a situation at a North Carolina elder care facility. A nurse sent patient information in an unsecured text to a physician, allegedly at his request. The data never transmitted farther than those parties. No unauthorized persons saw it. But it was still a violation. CMS then rated the facility with an e-class deficiency, resulting in a 10-point Directed Plan of Correction (DPOC) which had to be implemented within 15 days. The DPOC required staff training and the designation of a HIPAA compliance officer among other actions.For those clinicians not using a secure texting platform: 41.3% said the message included some type PHI. If that PHI gets exposed—or even if it doesn’t—you are putting your entire organization at risk.
Standard text messaging is also in use to alert clinicians to an emergency with 21% receiving an emergency notification daily. While texting certainly offers a better channel to alert those on call, a secure texting platform offers much more functionality that lends itself to better response time. A secure texting solution is, of course, complaint. It’s a real-time, multi-group tool that offers two-way communication and the ability to send images as well. A whole care team can collaborate and coordinate care.As the study conveyed, there is a rise in use of cell phones for communication. The practice of implementing a securing messaging application is only at 27%. And even fewer, 7%, responded that their network had a fully adopted secure texting plan with full participation.
Based on this study, it’s time for a heart to heart with clinicians about their communication processes. If there isn’t action on the part of your IT team then you can suggest a secure texting app. With the Qliq platform, you’ll enjoy a tool that enables better communications and compliance is always assured. It can scale easily for your whole organization. With so many benefits, it’s time to get a better tool. Learn more about the Qliq app today by registering for a free account.
A lifelong communicator, this Tennessee native got his start in broadcast news before branching out into public media, corporate, communications, digital advertising, and integrated marketing. Prior to joining QliqSOFT as the company's first marketing team member, Ben shared his talents with organizations that include the University of Alabama, iHeartMedia, and The Kroger Company.
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