Secure Mobile Text Messaging to Enable Efficient Patient Care
Text messaging by way of mobile devices has become a way of life for many, but health care hasn’t until relatively recently been able to take advantage of the ease of communication that mobile text messaging offers, primarily because of concerns and challenges regarding security and mobile device management.
Today, there are secure mobile messaging applications that encrypt text messages. But, not all solutions are created equal – it’s important to look at other factors, such as ease of use, the ease of maintaining user lists, and the flexibility to configure security parameters to fit your business needs.
When you start considering whether a secure messaging application might be something that would streamline your facility’s communication around patient care, the first step is to evaluate secure text messaging to identify use cases for it in your facility and decide whether the solution can solve issues with other forms of communication such as timeliness and convenience.
- Does your facility experience challenges regarding efficiency and speed of communicating patient information with other providers and staff?
- Who might need to communicate securely via text messaging regarding patient care?
- Facility Administrator?
- Director of Nursing?
- Medical Director?
- Attending physicians?
- Nursing staff
- What kinds of information might need to be sent quickly and securely?
- Patient condition updates, routine or urgent?
- Requests for new orders?
- Photographs or other images (skin condition, etc.)?
- What platforms should the messaging solution be able to run on?
- Web applications on a workstation?
- Native Windows application?
Then, consider the potential security risks around the use of any mobile technology and develop a strategy for mitigating them. It’s important to also document your secure messaging risk-mitigation policies and procedures to ensure HIPAA compliance, and to train your users not only on how to use the messaging app but also on how to use it safely.
- How might protected health information go astray with regard to messaging?
- Is your secure messaging solution encrypted and secure, and protected by a Business Associate Agreement?
- Can devices be secured with inactivity timers and other protections, yet still be accessed quickly by the user?
- Can you deactivate the application remotely when the mobile device is lost or stolen, or if a staff member leaves your employment?
- Does your secure texting solution lend itself to being used in a secure manner through offering robust security controls? Secure messaging solutions can be easy to use, but not necessarily easy to use safely.
- Have you documented your security policies for secure messaging?
- Have you trained your staff on security and policies as they apply to secure messaging?
You should also consider how easy it is to implement a secure messaging solution as well as to maintain users as they come and go.
- Do you have full administrative control over your secure messaging system (as opposed to being dependent on a third party to update users and/or change security settings for you)?
- Is it simple to set up user lists (large or small) when adopting the new solution?
- Does the secure messaging solution allow you to easily add and maintain new users?
- Is it easy to give a user who is not a direct employee at your facility (such as a physician or nurse practitioner) access to the secure messaging solution by email invitation?
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