Secure Text Messaging for Healthcare
4 SMS Healthcare Solutions and their applications in the Healthcare Industry
In the United States, personal medical data is fiercely protected by HIPAA. As a result, medical facilities are required to protect their patient’s information, and use secure channels when exposing medical information. While SMS messages aren’t encrypted, which limits a medical facility’s ability to communicate with patients using text messages, they still are an immediate and trusted channel for communicating with patients. Medical practices and healthcare facilities can use this immediacy and trust in implementing SMS communications into their patient communications processes.
SMS Healthcare Solution #1: Alerts and Updates
While HIPAA prevents the transfer of personal health information (PHI) via unsecured channels, it doesn’t prevent doctors from sending out generic reminders to their patients. For example, if there was a health crisis in a specific region, the health care facility could send out an alert to all its patients warning them of dangers and advising them what to do should they be affected. Medical facilities can also send out generic reminders to patients to get their annual flu shot before winter, share links to general health articles, and offer general health tips.
SMS Healthcare Solution #2: Personal Notifications
Health care facilities do need to be cautious when contacting patients with medical information. However, there are a number of notifications that can be sent out via SMS. The following notifications can be sent to patients, without including any information that would identify a medical condition:
- Notification that test results are available on a patient portal
- Notification and approval request when another medical facility or insurer asks for access to the patient's health record
- Notification that a requested prescription is available on a patient portal
- Notification from pharmacist that a prescribed medication can be picked up
- Notification that a prescription is no longer valid
SMS Healthcare Solution #3: Appointment Reminders
Missed appointments can cost medical practices thousands of dollars each year and impact the health of the patient. An appointment reminder SMS service would allow patients to respond whether or not they are coming. For those who are unable to make their appointment, the facility would then be able to offer the available slot to someone else. Medical facilities must be careful to be HIPAA-compliant when sending out these reminders. For example, a reminder to come to the Oncology Clinic would indicate that a patient has cancer. To be safe, appointment reminders should be limited to include that date and time of the appointment, the provider’s first and last name, and the address.
SMS Healthcare Solution #4: Office Management
Healthcare providers can use SMS tools to help manage their office. With text messaging software they can easily communicate shift assignments, request maintenance, and communicate with equipment vendors.
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