HIPAA Texting Policy

What is a HIPAA Texting Policy?

A HIPAA Texting Policy is a guide or set of procedures that should be drawn up following a review of methods used by staff, medical professionals, and business associates to transmit protected health information (PHI). Any risks that have been identified during the review should be addressed by the policy.

The Texting Policy should also contain information detailing when and how PHI can be sent by text, as well as the consequences of breaking these rules.

The purpose of the Texting Policy is to ensure all parties who can view PHI know and understand their duties, including their duty of care to protect patient information. Given the potentially confusing nature of HIPAA, covered entities should work to avoid bad habits forming due to lack of understanding.

HIPAA Compliant Texting Issues

Implementing a HIPAA compliant Texting Policy can be problematic. Some healthcare organizations do not have the appropriate tools to record access and sharing of PHI. Others may permit staff to communicate PHI via text messages using their personal smartphones or devices, even though sufficient security measures may not be in place.

This could make any texting policy essentially impossible to monitor, outside of a blanket ban of texting while at work. As text messaging is such a convenient and rapid way to share information, banning its use would be to put the enterprise at a serious disadvantage in terms of efficiency.

The potential for devices to be lost or stolen is another issue to address. Many breaches of PHI occur due to this. If healthcare organizations do not have a system in place to remotely wipe information from the device or block it from accessing PHI, they may face financial or civil penalties.

Secure Messaging: Problem Solved?

A possible solution to these issues may be for healthcare organizations to use a secure messaging tool. These tools include features that allow messaging, monitoring, and remote blocking to be carried out over a secure private network.

Access to data would be controlled, with users verifying their identity by providing unique login details provided by a central administration. Once connected to the network, users can share messages containing PHI with the same convenience and benefits as a regular text messaging platform, but without having to worry as much about the security aspects.

Secure messaging platforms also include administrative, technical, and physical features that allow the tool to be used in compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule. Even so, it should not be assumed that the use of a secure messaging platform negates the need to create a Texting Policy. These platforms enable activity monitoring so that the rules and processes in the Policy can be enforced.

More Information on HIPAA Compliance Policies

A Texting Policy is not the only type of policy that should be introduced by an organization for it to be HIPAA compliant. The HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules also require security management policies, information access policies, security incident policies, and contingency plans.