People all over the world have been text messaging for more than two decades. They do so for numerous reasons and from anywhere. It is not a surprise to find that the person sitting or standing next to you on their phone sending a text message. It is a useful way of getting the message across. Around 80% of professionals text for business purposes and their bosses approve of it. They term it as a way to get their work done, schedule meetings, and also contribute ideas. So, the big question is, why aren’t more doctors using text messages?
A Need for HIPAA Compliance
Due to the sensitivity of their jobs, hospitals and doctors are mandated to make use of HIPAA compliant texting applications. This is to make sure that all the Protected Health Information they are sharing is confidential and secure. Ideally, text messages are never encrypted when shared between two or more parties.
This means that a doctor could send a text through the normal messaging apps to the wrong recipient. It happens because there are no systems in place to prevent that from happening. Also, there is the risk of the device with the messages falling in the wrong hands. This means that anyone can access this information that was initially meant to be private and confidential.
Legally, HIPAA mandates the use of access controls for electronicPHI. This is to ensure that everyone with a smartphone would have to use a username and a password to allow them to access the messaging app used in storing or transmitting any sensitive information. Such information includes medical data from health professionals to their patients and vice versa.
Level of Consent Required
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires doctors to get two levels of consent from their patients. Whenever a patient shares their mobile phone numbers, they are expected to agree to receive text messages from the doctor.
The second level involves an opt-in message which the patient needs to reply to. This initiates the messaging campaign. In some cases, some patients will not go past the first level which makes it hard for doctors to use text messaging as a communication mode.
No Traceability for Auditing Purposes
It is hard to reclaim certain patients information for auditing when it had been sent through text messages. This includes a patient’s procedure information and their hospital stay. Such information could be vital when there is need to determine where a miscommunication took place in case a medical error occurs. If the message cannot be retrieved to act as proof, it may be harder to get the problem resolved.
The cost of receiving each message might be too much for these patients in the long run. This also applies to oft-changing cell numbers which is common in some patients demographics.
Also, health providers have no billing code for sending text messages to their patients. They don’t get reimbursed for the energy and time spent sending out text messages. This is one reason they would rather answer all their patients’ questions during an office visit as they get paid for it.
Mixups Do Happen
People get numerous messages in their inboxes including doctors and nurses. It might be difficult to differentiate a shift change alert message from one about dinner plans. As all messages go to the same inbox and are assigned the same priority, if a doctor misses the first alert, they might not even be aware that they got such a message.
The Bottom Line
Text messages can act as an effective reminder tool for maximizing enhanced medical compliance and patient appointments.
People demand more frequent communication from doctors because they have realized that it is easier to keep in touch using this technology. This way, their doctors can offer them preventative care too.
According to them, getting tips, encouragement, and reminders from their doctors via text messages or emails could have enabled them to avoid health problems in the past.
The sad news is that only 7% of doctors send their patients text messages. Even with all the issues associated with doctors texting their patients, there are a lot of benefits as many patients would prefer this method of communication from their doctors.
Each year, doctors are losing a lot in terms of money and helping keep their patients healthy by failing to take advantage of sending them text messages.