When, in March 2013, regulations were enacted in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) relating to the storage and transmission of electronic protected health information (ePHI), logistical difficulties arose regarding texting laboratory results and HIPAA compliance.
The issue with HIPAA compliance when texting lab results to personal mobile devices was that all ePHI now has to be encrypted, and the potential for a breach of ePHI existed if patients’ records were transmitted or accessed outside of a secure environment. Many healthcare organizations implement a secure text messaging system in order that medical professionals can have fast access to lab results – and lab technicians can deliver them securely – with resulting in increased staff efficiency and a higher standard of healthcare for patients.
In order to text lab results in compliance with HIPAA, lab technicians should log into a secure application where they can view ePHI they receive and upload any relevant additional information. A text message can then be sent to a medical professional containing the lab results as an image or pdf.
On receiving the text message, the medical professional clicks on the link, authenticates their identity using a unique username and PIN, and can access the lab results immediately. The lab technician receives confirmation when delivered and read and any activity by either party is logged so that system administrators can ensure that the texting of laboratory results is HIPAA compliant.
Using the secure text messaging platform, the medical professional can then collaborate with colleagues over the patient´s results, arrange for treatment to be administered to the patient or for the patient to be discharged if the results indicate the patient is well enough to leave the medical facility.
In addition to being able to text lab results in compliance with HIPAA, a secure text messaging platform enables medical professionals to communicate faster, escalate critical lab values with image sharing, and be available to address patient concerns – both within the medical facility and when the patient is in a home health environment.
It is possible to conduct multi-way discussions with secure text messaging if repeat tests are required or more than two parties need to collaborate on a patient´s health and, as secure text messaging platforms operate across all operating devices, medical professionals can receive laboratory results “on the go” with secure text messaging – even when they are on call or away from the medical facility.
TigerConnect’s secure text messaging solution has been deliberately designed for ease of use so that lab technicians and medical professionals will adapt to using it quickly and not be tempted to use alternative, unsecure methods of communication when transmitting ePHI. Read receipts inform laboratory technicians that the results of tests have been received, while a new “is typing” feature on TigerConnect’s secure text messaging app indicates that a medical profession is composing a reply – saving a significant amount of time and allowing medical professionals to spend more time with their patients instead of waiting by the phone or for an email.
TigerConnect’s secure text messaging solution can be integrated with an organization´s corporate directory so that laboratory technicians can search for medical professionals by name (or vice versa) rather than wasting valuable time looking for an individual telephone number. TigerConnect’s secure text messaging app also allows for multi-inbox functionality which allows laboratory departments – who may be conducting tests for more than one medical facility – to access all their incoming messages from within one secure application.
TigerConnect’s secure text messaging app also provides a solution to HIPAA compliance when texting lab results in scenarios in which the communication of lab results by any form of texting was previously impossible.
At Albany Gastroenterology Consultants in Albany, NY, one of the facility’s hospital wings had been built in an area where it was no possible to receive a cell phone signal. This created an issue of how to text lab results in compliance with HIPAA until the introduction of TigerConnect’s secure text messaging platform, which also operates through a Wi-Fi signal or web-based browser.
Alternative pager and messaging systems were tried, but TigerConnect’s secure text messaging platform was the most reliable (and cheapest) option available to the center, and the platform provided the additional benefits of streamlining the switchboard-dependent practice, eliminating duplicated messages and enhancing staff efficiency.
In order to ensure HIPAA compliance when texting lab results, healthcare organizations must develop policies related to texting laboratory results and HIPAA compliance. Ideally these policies will be integrated into organizational policies which already exist and clearly establish under what circumstances authorized users can text lab results to be in compliance with HIPAA.
To assist with the creation of policies to ensure HIPAA compliance when texting lab results, we have produced a white paper – “The Top 8 Secure Messaging Policy Best Practices” – which contains the most essential components of a secure text messaging policy.
Our white paper emphasizes the importance of having an assigned policy administrator, so that if authorized users have questions regarding the texting of laboratory results and HIPAA compliance they know who to speak with; and the assigned administrator should also be the person to whom lost or stolen personal mobile devices are reported to, so that the device can be removed from the system to prevent a potential breach of ePHI.
It is also important to note that once a policy has been established for texting laboratory results and HIPAA compliance, it should be reviewed regularly and amended to reflect technological advances, changing work practices and any new legislation that is introduced.
TigerConnect is the market leader in the provision of secure text messaging solutions for the healthcare industry, and more than 3,000 medical facilities have now implemented TigerConnect’s secure text messaging platform to ensure HIPAA compliance when texting lab results. In addition to the case study at Albany Gastroenterology Consultants above, further case studies have shown that being able to text lab results in compliance with HIPAA has resulted in significant benefits for healthcare organizations, the staff that work in them and the patients of the facility.
You are invited to download our white paper – “The Top 8 Secure Messaging Policy Best Practices” – and then contact us with any questions you may have about texting laboratory results and HIPAA compliance. Alternatively, you can request a free demonstration of how TigerConnect’s secure text messaging app ensures HIPAA compliance when texting lab results.
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TigerConnect provides secure, real-time mobile messaging for the enterprise, empowering organizations to work more securely. TigerConnect’s encrypted messaging platform keeps communications safe, improves workflows, and complies with industry regulations.