HIPAA: Text Messaging and Chat Services

By Art Gross, President and CEO, HIPAA Secure Now!
Twitter: @HIPAASecureNow
Read other articles by this author

Necessary Technology

As technology advances, more healthcare providers adopt digital technologies. Therefore, HIPAA compliance in regard to text messages and chat services becomes increasingly important. The HIPAA Privacy Rule was created to protect the privacy of personal health information (PHI). And that includes PHI that is transmitted via text message or other electronic messaging services. While HIPAA does not prohibit the use of these communication tools, it must be done with caution to ensure HIPAA compliance.

What do HIPAA regulations require when it comes to texting and messaging in order to stay compliant? What considerations must be taken when using these services to communicate health information? Which measures must healthcare providers have in place to protect the privacy of personal health information (PHI)?

What Are the Regulations?

HIPAA regulations require HIPAA-covered entities to use appropriate safeguards when transmitting PHI. This includes the encryption of data, secure authentication methods, and measures to protect against unauthorized access. HIPAA-compliant messaging services are designed to address these privacy concerns and ensure that PHI remains confidential. HIPAA-compliant texting solutions must also provide audit trails for all messages sent via their service. They must also generate automatic notifications when a recipient has read or deleted a message. Additionally, HIPAA-compliant texting services are required to ensure that any stored PHI is encrypted at rest and in transit.

Policies & Procedures

When using HIPAA-compliant texting solutions, healthcare providers should make sure they have the necessary policies and procedures in place and documented. These texting services should also be regularly reviewed to ensure they are meeting all HIPAA requirements as well as providing the necessary security safeguards for PHI.

While there are risks associated with using these services, having encryption protocols and the necessary security measures in place offset that risk. As with most aspects of doing business in a digital age, a strong cybersecurity program is essential. Additionally, these tools provide an effective way to do business.

This article was originally published on HIPAA Secure Now! and is republished here with permission.