[ Wednesday, October 17, 2012 ]


Texting: I've run into this issue with a number of clients and friends.  Doctors, like everyone else, love to text.  It's easier and quicker to text a colleague with information on a referred patient, to provide information gained while rounding for another physician, to determine whether a patient is ready for surgery, etc.  However, texting comes with some big risks.  First and foremost, is it safe?  Is it secure?  Are the texts stored so the wrong party can access them?  Is the phone itself secure enough?  How about while the text is in transit?

In addition to those HIPAA worries, I'd add in that in some states (Texas, for example), using email or texting to communicate between physicians and patients could cause the physician to be engaging in "telemedicine," which might also require the physician to comply with telemedicine rules that he/she may be entirely unaware of. 

What if a text message or email is relied upon by another party?  For example, a physician receives a text saying the patient is stable and does not need a major procedure, so he does not come to the hospital, but the patient did need the procedure and dies; or a patient texts his physician that he tested his temperature/blood pressure/blood sugar and it was fine, and the physician relies on that but the patient is wrong and is injured.  Most text messaging systems do not save the text, but in those cases, the content of the text should definitely be included in the patient's medical record. 

For all of these reasons, texting is bad news.  Emailing can be bad too, but is less so (at least it's usually saved, and there are common email encryption solutions).  Any practice that texts or uses email and doesn't address these issues is asking for trouble.

Of course, just as companies like ZixCorp make email encryption easier, and as practices move toward patient portal architechture to ensure HIPAA compliance, it seems some folks are trying to do similar things with texting.  I'm not endorsing this, but just find it interesting that folks are trying to fix these problems.

Jeff [3:41 PM]

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