Managed IT Services in Austin: Could Text Messages Be a Possible Threat to HIPAA Compliance?

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Managed IT services providers in Austin have had to address the question concerning text messages in relation to HIPAA compliance. A text message is simply a written message that is transferred electronically from one device to another. It is one of the most popular forms of communication today, and you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that medical practitioners have taken to this kind of communication with their patients.

The issue of concern is whether this mode of communication is entirely HIPAA compliant. To conclude that texting violates HIPAA may not be entirely true. It all depends on what the message contains, the intended recipient, and measures taken to preserve the integrity of Protected Health Information.

The issue comes about because of the potentiality of information getting lost and certain HIPAA compliance regulations. For instance, since text messages are usually not encrypted, they may be an easy target for hackers to access. Secondly, once you click on the send button, you have no control of the message anymore. Another hindrance is that medical records have to be documented. If you are going to transmit them via text messaging, then that means you will omit this important step.

Do HIPAA Laws Have Something on Texting Private Information?

Surprisingly, HIPAA has not documented any standard rules regarding the texting of sensitive information. However, it still maintains that healthcare providers should assume the responsibility of ensuring text security. Although medical practitioners may resolve to this form of communication because of its efficiency and delivery speed, texts are not secure for healthcare industries because contents of the text might be compromised in the process.

Managed IT services providers in Austin warn against the risks associated with sending text messages. For instance, unconcerned parties may access the text, or it could be deleted accidentally, thus losing an important medical record that should have otherwise been documented.

Some practitioners may argue that texts are convenient and that they incur just about the same risks as the other communication channels. This can be disputed by the example of a phone call where you are even sure of whom you are actually delivering the message to.

If you plan to use text, it should be with the approval of the patient, but still, you should follow the privacy policies, which include:

  • HIPAA Privacy Policy – Ensuring that only the authorized parties access data
  • HIPAA Security Policy – Providers should take measures to keep patient’s data protected and have a plan in case a breach occurs.

It is a fact that text messaging may not be ending in the near future. The only solution is to ensure that you take the following precautionary measures:

  • Encrypt the messages to ensure that they remain private and protected
  • Perform a security risk analysis to rule out the possibility of PHI being at risk
  • Institute texting policies in your organization
  • Find out from the patients what communication channel they are comfortable using
  • Limit the information that you can share via text.

If you are a medical practitioner, partner with Contigo Technology, a managed IT services provider in Austin. Among many other services, we will guide you through HIPAA compliance especially as regards to text messaging. Contact us today to learn more.