Texting and HIPAA

textingTwo years ago, we at the TeleMental Health Institute published an article about safeguards to use while texting: http://telehealth.org/texting

Some of our colleagues scoffed at our “paranoia,” including a malpractice carrier. Now that several more companies have developed text-encryption and other security/privacy services, and HIPAA violations are being punished, we see more responsible attention to the matter.

For instance, see the recent article below, entitled, Physician texting provides quick communication — and an easy way to violate HIPAA

After years of using pagers, and constantly waiting on return calls, physicians now consider texting to be an efficient and fast way to connect with colleagues.

Although the technology may result in faster and better communication, physicians who text other doctors could be exposing themselves to privacy and security violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Though many electronic medical record systems come with secure messaging components, using them requires logging into that system. Sending a simple text from a smartphone — which more than 80% of doctors now carry — is much simpler.

“Physicians are not so much concerned with HIPAA compliance as they are about work flow and physician communication,’ ” said James French, MD, executive director of the hospitalists group at the Cone Health System, a five-hospital system in Piedmont, N.C., during a webinar on texting.

See this webpage for the remainder of the article: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/10/31/bica1031.htm#top

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