At pMD, our goal is to always push the envelope to help make providers’ lives easier and ultimately improve the quality of patient care. We are constantly updating our application to be as robust as possible and releasing new features that increase provider productivity. Recently, the pMD engineering team has been focusing on polishing our secure messaging features and among those items is encrypted push notifications. While “encrypted push notifications” may sound a bit boring, it is actually a very exciting feature that will greatly improve our users’ experience while using pMD® Secure Messaging™. But before talking about that, I want to briefly discuss the term ‘encryption’.
Simply put, encryption is a way to convert information into gobbledygook in order to prevent unauthorized access to that information. Encryption works by using an encryption algorithm, or set of rules, along with an encryption key. When text is processed by an encryption algorithm, it is unreadable until it is translated back to readable text using the same algorithm and the encryption key.
To illustrate this we can observe the Caeser Cipher, one of the oldest encryption methods in the world. The Caeser Cipher works by replacing each letter in a text and shifting the letter over by a certain number of positions in the alphabet. For example, with a shift of 2 the letter ‘A’ becomes the letter ‘C’, the letter ‘D’ becomes the letter ‘F’ and so on. So if we use “hello” as our text and our key (the number of times we move a letter) is 2, “hello” will become “jgnnq”. To convert our text back we simply do the reverse of our algorithm with our key of 2 and voila! The text turns back to “hello”! Now that you know the basics of encryption, let’s return to our topic of encrypted message notifications.
Messaging applications have become so commonplace that certain features are expected to be included in every messaging application. One of these staple features is being able to read the message body from a notification on your device’s locked screen. Though it may sound straightforward, this wasn’t actually possible to do when pMD originally released our secure messaging service, simply because we had no way of encrypting our notification! No encryption, no HIPAA-compliance! It wasn’t until Apple released some code that our developers were able to process an incoming pMD notification before displaying its contents. This means that we can encrypt the notification when sending it to a user’s device and decrypt the contents upon arrival to the user’s device.
What does this mean for the our users? The biggest win for our users is being able to read the pMD message directly from their locked screen! At pMD, we all use pMD® Secure Messaging™ to communicate with each other and understand that sometimes, it’s inconvenient to unlock your phone, tap on pMD, tap on the messages tab, and finally tap on the conversation to read the received message. With this feature, we bring a positive contribution to the overall experience of using pMD.