HIPAA Compliant Texting: Does HIPAA Apply to Text Messages?

Did you know that in 2019 there were 41 million healthcare records exposed, lost, or stolen? And that each breach cost the affected provider an average of over six million dollars?

If you're concerned about protecting your patient's information then you need to pay attention to your communication habits, namely texting. Texting is a great way to communicate quickly with your staff and patients. You need to be especially diligent that your practices include sending HIPAA compliant texting.

Don't worry if you don't know what that is or how to stay compliant because we've got you covered. Keep reading to learn all about the HIPAA law and how to stay within it. Remember it's your responsibility to ensure that you provide the ultimate privacy to your patients.

1. What Is the HIPAA Law?

2. What Is HIPAA Compliant Texting?

3. Common Fines for a HIPAA Violation

4. The Best Tool for Sending HIPAA Compliant Text Messages

5. Stay Within the Law the Next Time You Send a Text

What Is the HIPAA Law?

In 1996 Congress passed a law that requires health care professionals to keep their patients' information private and secure. Congress saw that more and more health care information was being sent or kept digitally. They wanted to ensure that every health practitioner in America kept their patient information safe.

The law applies to everyone within the healthcare industry including:

  • Practitioners
  • Health plans and insurance companies
  • Employers and human resources departments with sensitive information
  • Companies that provide storage or databases for healthcare practitioners

If your business is connected with the healthcare industry then you need to keep that information private. This means you need to protect any information regarding your patient.

And that includes diagnoses, treatment plans, and conversations about their health. Your patients have the right to know when that information is being shared and with whom.

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What Is HIPAA Compliant Texting?

More and more practitioners communicate with each other and their patients via their mobile phones. This has caused new concerns about keeping patient confidentiality. If you send information to your colleagues or patients then you have the legal obligation to ensure that you're sending them in a compliant manner.

HIPAA text messaging covers any conversation had for your business. It can be as simple as your receptionist texting you regarding patient lab results. And it can be as complex as knowing that you're sending the right information to the right patient in the manner they've approved.

When you establish a new patient it's important that you get their permission to contact them via text messaging before you ever send them anything.

It's also important that you only send the minimum amount of information necessary. For example, if your employee sends you a text regarding lab results they would need to use language such as "Patient M.J. lab results came back within normal range." And avoid sending a text such as "Mary Johnson's cancer tests came back positive."

It's your responsibility to provide your employees with the proper tools and the necessary training to ensure compliance. You can't simply claim ignorance or you open yourself up to costly fines.

Common Fines for a HIPAA Violation

There are several different levels of violations when it comes to HIPAA compliance. In addition, the fines that are imposed are based on whether or not you could have reasonably avoided the breach of confidentiality. There are four tiers of levels for violations:

  • Tier 1: provider was unaware of the violation and couldn't have reasonably avoided noncompliance
  • Tier 2: provider should have been aware but still couldn't have reasonably avoided noncompliance
  • Tier 3: provider found to have willfully neglected the law and should try to correct the violation to avoid in the future
  • Tier 4: provider both willfully neglected the law and didn't make any attempt to correct or prevent it in the future

As mentioned, ignorance is not a reasonable defense. It's your responsibility as a healthcare provider to know your law and ensure that you and everyone on your staff stay within compliance.

Finally, if a breach is detected it is also your responsibility to correct it. And you must also show that you provided new education and new tools for your staff to prevent any breach going forward.

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The Best Tool for Sending HIPAA Compliant Text Messages

To avoid these costly fines, and to provide top-notch security for your patients, you need to use the right tools for the job. Don't rely on simply getting a second phone or using cryptic messages. Instead, get the best tool on the market that allows you to have a second dedicated line for your practice on your personal phone.

HIPAA texting doesn't have to be confusing when you have the right tools to do your job correctly. Our app provides you with a second line on your personal mobile phone that allows you to make and receive calls and text messages. And with our simple setup process, you and your team can begin communicating in a compliant manner right away.

If you have a healthcare practice, provide a service for a healthcare practice or insurance company, then you need to stay within the HIPAA law. Don't risk losing millions of dollars in fines as well as the confidence of your patients. Instead, stay compliant with our app.

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Stay Within the Law the Next Time You Send a Text

You don't need to be confused any longer about what constitutes whether something is HIPAA compliant texting. Now you can stay within the law and reassure your patients that they can trust you with their personal information.

For more information on this important topic, you can see our case study here. We dive deeper into how this physician and their team stay compliant. All while using their personal cell phones to communicate with each other and their patients.

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