Why Secure Messaging Apps Are the Only Way Forward for American Healthcare

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Why Secure Messaging Apps Are the Only Way Forward for American Healthcare

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Technology and healthcare: each drives and improves the other in significant ways. Without technology, X-rays, medication, surgery — none of it would be possible. Today, a new type of technology is saturating the healthcare landscape, generating controversy and leaving many Americans feeling uneasy about the safety of some of their most private information.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) into law. HITECH established rules meant to regulate the usage of Digital Age technology in healthcare environments, ensuring healthcare providers could get the most out of burgeoning tech, while protecting American citizens from data theft. As Tech Republic suggests, the growth in healthcare providers using this so-called “Healthcare 2.0” tech can only be described as geometric.

In most cases, this technology is saving medical professionals time and money, not to mention the positive effects it’s had on the quality of patient care. That said, with a number of high profile hacking scandals where millions of patients’ had their data stolen, many are left asking “how secure is texting in the healthcare setting?”

How Secure is Texting?
Unless you’re using specific applications built for healthcare to send messages, the answer to “how secure is texting” is typically “not at all.” As the medical tech website Physicians Practice details, general texting is unsecured and offers no way to verify recipients of texts. That’s why unless healthcare providers want data their patients’ data stolen, they need to come up with a plan and implement secure text messaging applications.

What Can Medical Providers Do to Encourage Secure Texting?

  • Ban Texting Until You Work Out Your Plan
  • If you don’t have a plan in place to protect your data, the best thing to do is to put a moratorium on texting until you do. It can be difficult to enforce a plan like this, but you need to be firm. Remember, according to the American Medical Association, a single HIPAA infraction can cost you as much as $50,000. Make sure anyone you catch texting at work during this period is properly punished.

  • Limit Who Can Text at Work and When
  • For HealthIT.gov, limiting the instances in which it’s okay to text at work is key to mitigating risk. First, you should consider limiting texting to certain staff members. For instance, it might be best to limit texting permission to your doctors and select clerical staff. You should further consider limiting the times during which texting is okay. This can help you avoid a productivity issue, but it can also be a great way to improve security while maintaining a standard workflow practice.

  • Install Apps Built for Secure Texting for Healthcare
  • You should have your IT department install secure texting applications on every employee device. This can be tricky without an ironclad bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy in effect, but so long as you have a rule saying this is a mandatory step for using a device at work, there shouldn’t be any issue. Without these specialized technologies, there is no way to guarantee your data is secure — period.

Have you implemented a policy to make HIPAA secure email and texting a priority? If you think there is something else healthcare providers should be doing to protect themselves and their patients, let us know in the comments below. Find more.

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