Sprint debuts two secure healthcare texting products

By: Neil Versel | Posted Jun 25, 2013 (Featured on MobiHealthNews)

Mobile operator Sprint Nextel has teamed up with TigerText, a privately held, Santa Monica, Calif.-based provider of secure text messaging services, to offer two texting products for healthcare enterprises that safeguard protected health information to HIPAA standards.

The basic service, called Sprint Enterprise Messenger – Secure is provided by TeleMessage, an Israeli company that builds secure mobile messaging technology. This product is mobile operator-specific, only available for Sprint customers, the telecommunications firm says. The other, TigerText Pro, works across platforms and carriers.

Julee Thompson, Sprint’s chief healthcare executive, calls the former a less-expensive option for clients who just want to support internal text messaging between clinicians. “I think the overall intent is that we’ve got a range of secure messaging solutions,” Thompson tells MobiHealthNews. “We aren’t making an assumption that one size fits all.”

Both products are available for either healthcare systems or physician offices, according to Thompson. “All of [those providers] are required to manage protected health information,” she says.

Generally, standard SMS is not secure enough under HIPAA for communicating PHI. In addition, Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive program for electronic health records requires healthcare providers to offer secure messaging, either through a web portal or some other means, to at least half of their patients.

However, text messaging has become hugely popular, including among healthcare professionals. “They’re gravitating there because it’s simple to use and it’s asynchronous,” says TigerText CEO Brad Brooks.

“Texting is efficient,” agrees Thompson.

Healthcare organizations have taken notice of the BYOD phenomenon, of course, “They’re becoming more aware that their physicians and their nursing staff are using what’s familiar to them,” Thompson says, meaning their own smartphones and tablets, not those issued by hospitals and health systems.

“We’re going to continue to see solutions targeted toward allowing people to use a single device,” Thompson says. “They very much do not want to be tethered to three or four devices.”

With either TigerText Pro or Sprint Enterprise Messenger-Secure, users install an app on their devices that routes their messages through a secure server. TigerText currently is available for Android and Apple iOS. “Ours is on Android and soon to be iOS,” Thompson says. Sprint, of Overland Park, Kan., has not announced a launch date for the Apple version.

TigerText also is accessible through the Web on desktop and laptop computers, as well as on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and other mobile platforms that don’t have native apps, Brooks says. “The intent is for TigerText to be device-agnostic,” according to Thompson.

TigerText allows users to recall sent messages, supports group messaging and attachment of images and video, features Sprint Enterprise Message – Secure does not support. Also, Brooks says, “You don’t have to have anyone’s mobile number to send a message.” That information is stored on the secure server.

TigerTextPro is an intra-enterprise product. TigerText has a free, consumer product as well as an application programming interface called TigerConnect, though neither is part of the Sprint deal, according to Brooks.

Pricing starts at $3.99 per device per month for Sprint Enterprise Message – Secure and at $10.65 monthly per device for TigerText Pro. There is a 10-user minimum for TigerText, but no minimum for the Sprint product, according to Sprint.

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