Author – Kristi Perdue Hinkle

Smart technology adoption is not exactly new. We have been discussing everything from smart phones, tablets, wearables and the internet of things for some time now. In a world where we can now ask Alexa to order us a Pizza, turn our lights off or lock our doors from across the country, and our cars drive, brake and park on their own – we have come to expect technology advances that make our everyday lives easier – at home and at work. Smart phones by far are the most used device across industries and households to date, providing efficiency in the way we collaborate and get things done. Particularly in the healthcare industry, the use of smart devices by care giving teams has grown significantly. With a husband who has personalized sheets in our local ER, I am all too familiar with the use of smart phones in particular among first responders and emergency room staff to facilitate everything from initial response, to stabilization, to diagnosis, to admission or release – and everything in between. The statistics show an overwhelming use in various areas:

  • 84% of physicians use smartphones for work,
  • 31% physicians are using smartphones to manage patient care.
  • 52% of ambulatory practice physicians access patient records and/or reference data via a mobile device.
  • Over 30% of doctors have received PHI via text, violating HIPAA.
When Time is of the Essence

It is not a surprise that when medical decisions need to be made quickly and accurately, texting over tablets and smart phones have become part of the answer to providing superior health care. When information needs to be shared quickly to confirm a course of treatment for a patient undergoing an emergency procedure, a geographically separated doctor can easily collaborate on the procedure. Add in the ability to take and share photos real time, and you’ve just improved the odds of improved patient care and in some cases patient survival. In fact, recent studies from the UK and Canada show that nearly half of their doctors share photos to speed patient service. Another reality I am way too familiar with due to multiple visits to the ER over the past year for smashed fingers, burns and staple gun mishaps.

Reality Check
In the efforts to provide superior and expedited care, have healthcare providers overlooked their obligation to privacy? As stated above, at a minimum, over 30% of doctors in recent studies have admitted that they received PHI via standard SMS text, violating HIPAA. It is my opinion that this is likely a low representation for what is really occurring seeing it is a medical professional’s nature to do what it takes to help make someone well and save lives. With smartphone use by healthcare professionals only increasing, SMS texting is taking place regardless of facility reimbursement or sanctioning. It is being used by various members of the medical staff including physicians, specialists, nurses, admissions, paramedics, consultants, patients and more to expedite workflows. Efficiency gains, the need for rapid response and client demand for engagement are far too great and our texting culture is far too strong to ignore. But, despite the need for efficiency and rapid response, security and compliance are paramount when discussing personal health information (PHI). PHI must be protected and secured throughout the information lifecycle at all times. Collaboration and conversations via text should be captured in the patient record to meet HIPAA compliance and for physician and patient accessibility. Patients and care giving team members must be able to communicate with confidence, knowing that their messages meet the requirements of HIPAA. Patient trust and organizational reputation depend on it.
Secure Collaboration via Text

So how do you ensure that your health care teams can collaborate efficiently while staying HIPAA compliant, all without changing the way you work? Secure, ephemeral messaging, like that provided by Vaporstream, is a way to allow critical communication and collaboration to occur while maintaining security and compliance. Patient care teams can improve workflows, increase efficiency and ensure the delivery of superior patient care. Secure Messaging empowers your teams to leverage the efficiency of modern day SMS messaging while ensuring that security and compliance are not jeopardized. Features such as:

  • Sender Controls
  • Encryption
  • Expired Content
  • Integration with EHR
  • Screenshot Protection
  • Image Obfuscation
  • Protect PHI and enable the rapid response required in life-saving and communication dependent healthcare organizations.
If you would like to find out more about Secure Messaging in Healthcare and how Vaporstream can help your organization remain HIPAA compliant, download our latest whitepaper: Healthcare Communications in a HIPAA World or contact us.