Is Texting Patient Information HIPAA Compliant?

Mar 16, 2021 |

A quick glance at your smartphone screen will show you just how often you rely on text messages to stay in touch with colleagues, family, and friends. But chances are good that your practice or hospital doesn’t send text messages to patients you serve.

That’s because healthcare organizations need to take great pains to protect confidential patient data from prying eyes.

As you know, sensitive information maintained on patients is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which Congress passed in 1996. 

HIPAA security rule violations of patient information are not to be taken lightly. Between 2005 and 2019, researchers report that 249.09 million individuals were affected by healthcare data breaches between 2005 and 2019, according to Healthcare.

Failure to protect these data can expose your medical organization to fines, lawsuits, and the destruction of trust that you’ve taken so long to build up between your staff and the population of patients you take care of in the community.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes necessary safeguards when emailing or texting e-PHI to patients. When those safeguards are properly addressed and implemented, text messaging can become incredibly valuable in patient care. 

Benefits of Patient Text Messaging

Today, about 98% of smartphone users send text messages in the United States on a regular basis with their mobile device, and 90% of messages are read by recipients within just 3 minutes. In contrast to emails, which typically have an open rate of 20%, convenient text messages are opened 98% of the time. 

With HIPAA-compliant texting, you can reach out to your patients with much less effort than manual phone calls and a higher response rate than you would expect to get from messages sent via email. 

And unlike a digital health app, with texting there is no friction for patients since there’s nothing new to download, and no account to set up and register. That’s key for improving patient satisfaction.

PatientConcierge Messaging App

Using Elimu’s PatientConcierge solution, providers can enroll patients in care management programs that automatically and securely engage patients using text messaging. The result is more efficient and timely exchange of information with patients to improve care and increase responsiveness to patient needs.

HIPAA compliant text messaging via PatientConcierge can contribute to better outcomes, such as helping to identify medication side effects early or reduce readmissions by monitoring patient symptoms after discharge. It can also boost reimbursements by promoting more effective care management for care transitions , completion of chronic care management services, and increased participation in patient-reported outcomes programs.

We Go Far Beyond Traditional Patient Texting Solutions

What we do differently is create automated programs (workflows) for engaging patients for specific episodes of care. 

For example, imagine a patient who was just discharged from the hospital after hip-replacement surgery. We reach out to him after a couple of days to make sure he has  picked up and is taking his meds, we check on pain or other symptoms, request him to complete PROs, and make sure he has a follow-up appointment. 

PatientConcierge is being used to monitor patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantining at home, and to follow-up with patients with heart failure to track their body weight daily. 

The questions we ask and when we ask are driven by data from the EHR. We also update the  EHR with data we collect from patients. As the software analyzes the data from patient reports and the EHR, it sends notifications to clinicians whenever their attention is needed.

We do all of this automatically.

Boost Patient Engagement & Gather Critical Data with HIPAA-Compliant Texting

With people so accustomed to exchanging text messages to stay connected and share information (both trivial and important), it makes sense that they’d expect this convenience from their healthcare providers too.

But navigating the health industry information security landscape can be daunting for anyone. This is especially the case for those who focus more on serving patients than working on information security. At Elimu Informatics, we specialize in secure and effective clinical workflow solutions so medical professionals can concentrate on what they do best, caring for patients. 

Schedule a demo today to learn more about the unique capabilities of PatientConcierge and how to incorporate it within your practice. 

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