Secure Messaging Gains Approval for Healthcare Communication
June 4, 2016
Among other things, Title II of HIPAA (the Health Information Privacy Accountability Act) regulations mandate how personal health information may be properly transmitted. Keeping personal health information secure from unaffiliated third parties is a key concern for healthcare call centers and their clients who clamor for communication convenience.
Though text messaging is a popular communication option among healthcare practitioners, it fails to provide the required data security and falls far short of being able to ensure the mandatory privacy of health information. In 2011, the Joint Commission, which accredits healthcare organizations, gave its official thumbs down to text messaging as a means of communicating protected personal healthcare information.
Call center vendors worked to find a solution and began offering secure messaging portals for their call center clients who serve healthcare practitioners (as well as other security-focused industries, such as finance). The result was secure messaging apps, which addressed the HIPAA and Joint Commission concerns. While call centers and their clients have relied on these secure messaging apps in the intervening years, the Joint Commission remained silent on their use.
In a welcomed clarification, this May the Joint Commission gave its approval to secure text messaging as a viable means of communicating protected health information. They stated that practitioners “may text orders as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included.”In a welcomed clarification, this May the Joint Commission gave its approval to secure text messaging as a viable means of communicating protected health information. They stated that practitioners “may text orders as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included.”
In order to be deemed as secure, the platform must meet six requirements:
Have a “secure sign-on process,”
Use “encrypted messaging,”
Present “delivery and read receipts,”
Include both a “date and time stamp,”
Offer “customized message retention time frames,” and
Provide a “specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders.”
(From the Joint Commission’s FAQ section addressing secure text messaging.
This information was also included in the Joint Commission’s Perspectives®publication, May 2016, Volume 36, Issue 5,
While call centers have long relied on secure messaging as a viable means to meet HIPAA requirements in this matter, having the Joint Commission give their written approval provides a welcome confirmation.
Despite this, some indifferent call centers continue to persist in ignoring the critical importance, both ethically and legally, of providing secure text messaging to their healthcare clients. If your call center is texting private healthcare information without using a secure messaging app, then it’s time to find a new call center. The risk of their lapse falls not only on them, but also on you.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center
industry and who provides a healthcare call center matchmaking service.
Contact Janet at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.
Peter DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.
Tweet: Joint Commission OKs secure messaging for healthcare info. Does your #callcenter comply?
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