Being able to deliver lab results with secure texting has resolved a number of issues that manifested with the revision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) last year – most significantly how to ensure that protected health information remains secure when being transmitted and that it is communicated to the intended recipient.
In addition to complying with the HIPAA regulations, using secure texting to deliver lab results has many benefits for healthcare organizations, medical professionals and the patients that they care for. These benefits are discussed later in this article, but for now, we will look at why it became necessary to deliver lab results with secure texting.
With the increased use of personal mobile devices among healthcare professionals, Short Message Service (SMS) text messaging became an increasingly popular way of communicating patient data – including lab results – as a replacement for the inefficient paging systems.
Unfortunately, SMS text messaging is unsecured and non-compliant with the HIPAA safety and privacy regulations, as messages containing protected health information can be read by anyone who gains access to the mobile device (or who intercepts the message), forwarded to anyone, remain unencrypted on cell phone servers, and stay forever on senders´ and receivers´ personal mobile devices.
Using secure texting to deliver lab results ensures that encrypted protected health information remained secure during the transmission of a communication and – with many secure messaging systems – the facility exists to remotely delete communications if there is any threat to the integrity of protected health information; such as if a medical professional loses their personal mobile device.
Being able to deliver lab results with secure texting also ensures that protected health information does not get sent to an unauthorized party. 38% of all mobile device users have, at one time or another, sent an SMS to somebody it was not intended for. Under the revised HIPAA regulations, sending an SMS containing unprotected health information to the wrong person can result in a fine of $50,000.
Secure messaging systems require the recipient to authenticate their identities before reading a message sent within the application; a process which then informs the sender that the message has been read, eliminating the necessity of follow-up calls to check that lab results have been received.
Audit logs produced by the secure messaging systems enable system administrators to ensure that lab results are being communicated to the right person and that the integrity of protected health information remains intact in transmission and on receipt.
Case studies have shown that, by using secure texting to deliver lab results, organizations have witnessed numerous benefits in addition to eliminating the threat of a breach of protected health information. These benefits include:
These benefits have resulted in reduced costs for a healthcare organization, increased efficiency within hospitals and medical facilities, and a higher standard of healthcare being delivered to patients.