Here’s a bit of trivia for you: When was the first text message sent and what did it say?
Answer: December 3, 1992, it said ‘merry christmas’ and was sent by Neil Papworth who was 22 at the time to a colleague, Richard Jarvis.
Those two words, 15 characters in all, launched a communication tool that most of us use every single day. Texting is easy, quick and widespread. If texting were an app it would the most commonly used app in the world.
There’s a place for texting in health care too but not without some modification. Texting could be a valuable tool in providing timely patient care. The problem with texting as we know it is that it doesn’t meet the requirements of the HIPAA law that deals with safeguarding patient protected health information.
Any type of information that can be used to identify a patient is protected and can only be shared in a secured format and normal SMS texting is not considered secure. GVMH has recognized the benefit of making patient health information readily accessible to providers and the benefit to the patient when timely communication is facilitated between staff and providers.
GVMH is in the process of rolling out a product called IQ Max which is a secured text service. The product is password protected at the device level, utilizes a secure network and is traceable. Users can share patient information with others involved in the patient’s care in a manner that meets all HIPAA requirements. Texting over the secure network can be done from a computer or a mobile device, including personal devices. Because the information is shared over a secure network no patient information is kept on the users device and a record of all correspondence is created and archived. The archive is important because the HIPAA law requires patients to be able to receive record, if they ask, of any and all electronic information created in regards to their care.
Protecting patient information is important and its the law. Our patients deserve and expect their information to be shared only with those involved in their care in a manner that prevents access to anyone not involved. Our patients also deserve timely care. GVMH’s process to identify and utilize a secure text option will facilitate patient privacy and timely patient care. Dr. Bill Dailey has been instrumental in the identification of a product that allows for secure texting and he will be assisting with roll out and policy development. If you have any questions about the process or software, please feel free to ask Dr. Dailey or shoot him a text – just be sure you don’t include any patient info because texting as you know it today isn’t secure!