Guidelines for secure communications between doctors and nurses were introduced in 2013 when the Final Omnibus Rule enacted regulations in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which made it necessary for protected health information (PHI) to be encrypted during transmission and “at rest.”
These guidelines apply whenever medical professionals communicate (PHI) between themselves and cover eighteen different areas of patient healthcare; including the health status of a patient, the provision of healthcare, or in circumstances when payment for healthcare can be linked to a specific individual.
Any unsecured communication (such as an SMS, IM or email) could potentially result in a breach of PHI, for which the negligent party could face criminal prosecution and civil action from the patient whose private health information has been compromised.
Because there are a significant number of scenarios in which medical professionals need to collaborate about patient healthcare, many healthcare organizations have implemented text messaging systems within virtual private networks to facilitate secure communications between nurses and doctors.
These text messaging solutions allow doctors to receive PHI on the go, system administrators to transmit PHI to on-call doctors on their way to a home visit or emergency, and nurses to convey messages and updates to doctors without having to wait for them to finish their rounds.
The overall effect of providing secure communications between doctors and nurses has been to increase efficiency and streamline workloads, which in turn has reduced costs and improved the level of healthcare provided to patients.
The major benefit that organizations obtain from providing secure text messaging for doctors and nurses is the costs that are saved. Case studies have shown that nurses “wasted” up to an hour each day, prior to the introduction of a secure messaging solution, playing “phone tag” with doctors they were trying to reach with important messages or in order to communicate test results.
Furthermore, a 2013 survey conducted by the Ponemon Research Institute found that the length it took to manage a hospital discharge could be cut in half with secure communication of patient concerns between nurses and doctors. Researchers estimated that the average savings a healthcare organization made each year amounted to $557,253.
With the extra time available to nurses who are no longer playing phone tag with doctors, patients are generally receiving a higher level of healthcare. One specific case study revealed that nurses were able to see 12-15 more patients per shift following the introduction of secure communications between doctors and nurses, but the biggest benefit to patients of secure text messaging for doctors and nurses has been the streamlining of their Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).
Secure communications between nurses and doctors can be automatically integrated into patients´ EMRs – a process which would have been done manually before secure text messaging for doctors and nurses was possible – with the result that the provision of healthcare runs smoothly from the admission of a patient into the medical facility, through the treatment they receive, and continues when the patient is discharged from hospital and has follow-up home care.