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Weekly Byte: Is It Secure Enough For HIPAA?

As a sales manager at pMD, I spend a lot of time with medical practices and hospitals that are evaluating our charge capture and secure messaging software - learning about the ins and outs of their businesses and how we can support them. Over the past couple of years and through the introduction of our secure text messaging platform, we’ve increasingly been curious to hear what groups are doing for communication with their colleagues, as well as with outside physicians. After all, communication is critical to providing quality patient care.

I’ve heard many startling answers. These range from, “We send regular texts with PHI all the time, we’re not worried about HIPAA” to, “What exactly do I have to text for it to be a HIPAA violation? I really have no idea, but it sounds bad“, and “We use iMessage and try to leave out PHI, which I think is secure enough.”

How can health care providers be on such drastically different pages with government regulations, especially when violation fines can cost up to $50,000 per text message? What we’ve discovered is that there is a staunch disconnect between the government bodies who write the compliance laws, the organizations that are supposed to be disseminating this information, and the providers who are supposed to be following them. The industry is still learning every day what is and isn’t OK according to these new rules and standards, and that process will take time.

There needs to be clearer direction from government agencies about how best to comply with these new rules, so providers can get back to focusing on why they got into medicine in the first place: helping patients. Implementing a good secure messaging solution is an integral step to making sure that these new regulations don’t get in the way of patient care.
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