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Ensure Your Practice is HIPAA Complaint when Using Mobile Devices

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Mobile Health Communication

Data privacy between patient and provider is of utmost importance when healthcare technology is rapidly expanding into more modern methods of communication. Practices are becoming increasingly aware of the fines levied against them if they breach HIPAA regulation.

Mobile Healthcare Applications

In a world where people are dependent on technology it makes sense for healthcare to take advantage of this modern method of communication. What better way to reach a patient than through their smart phone or tablet? However, text messages, just like other means of communication, have their security issues. There are a few things that a practice should consider if they want to remain HIPAA compliant.

While texting can be useful, it’s also very hard to secure the information being shared. Texts can be shared with anyone and, unless the messages are deleted, everyone with access to the phone can view the information. User error may also be a concern. Accidentally sharing a message or sending it to the wrong person are both reasons for concern.

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken in order to minimize the chance that information will fall into the wrong hands:

  • Check in with the patients and make sure that they’re comfortable with the information being shared.
  • Limit the information being sent in text messages. Only send what’s required in order to complete the task.
  • When exchanging information with a patient, always make sure to send it on a secure network.
  • Never attach files from the practice’s database. Releasing database information may compromise the privacy of other patients.
  • Delete the messages after they’ve been sent or received. This is the best way to guarantee that the information remains between the patient and their provider.

Security issues are a major concern when it comes to these advances in technology. The accidental release of information could lead to serious consequences for the practice. Fines for a practice in violation of HIPAA could add up to thousands of dollars, possibly even millions.

There are several ways to heighten security with this mobile technology. One of the simplest ways is the use of passwords. Passwords will decrease the chances of unauthorized access to the device. However, passwords alone won’t be enough to remove responsibility from the practice. If the device is lost, the practice may still be considered liable under HIPAA regulations. Remote wiping and encryption are other precautions that a practice can take in order to improve security.

As people become increasingly connected through technology, it’s important that healthcare doesn’t fall behind. With the right precautionary measures, physicians can stay HIPAA compliant while using mobile devices to connect with their patients.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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3 thoughts on “Ensure Your Practice is HIPAA Complaint when Using Mobile Devices

  1. I email some of my doctors via a patient portal, and sometimes we talk over the phone; however, I’ve never texted with them. It seems like it could be problematic if your doctor’s cellphone is lost and someone else uses it, since your message would be visible on the phone. Do you text with your doctor? If so, are you worried about someone besides your doctor being able to view your texts?

  2. Texting can be useful for things like appointment reminders and general health questions. However, I personally feel that if texting is used as a method of communication between doctors and patients, confidential information, such as lab results should not be discussed.

  3. If the patient does decide to text their physician, they need to accept responsibility for the risks associated with texting.

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