Text messaging (SMS) is one of the most sought-after telemedicine features. It simplifies the appointment making process, both virtually and in person. When healthcare providers implement texting solutions, they must comply with the rules and regulations set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when handling patient data. If you use non-secure texting to disclose protected health information (PHI), it can lead to hefty fines and even jail time because it is not HIPAA compliant.
The best way for healthcare providers to implement 2-way text messaging features is to integrate their EHR with a telemedicine software that provides an easy to implement and use texting platform.
When done correctly, healthcare providers can improve their clinics’ workflow, cut back on tedious administrative tasks, and provide patients with a streamlined telemedicine experience.
Texting solutions can simplify appointment scheduling.
Scheduling appointments manually can be a hassle for physicians and patients alike. Once a patient calls to set up an appointment, the medical and administrative team must check their schedule, consult with the patient, and wait for them to choose a suitable date before scheduling the appointment.
The process is inefficient and can lead to errors. Creating a schedule is complicated. It’s not uncommon to schedule two appointments at the same time by accident. Furthermore, patients hate spending hours in a clinic’s waiting room before their doctor’s visit. A single mix-up can create scheduling havoc, and before you know it, your waiting room is flooded with stressed out and irritated patients.
Keeping track of available time slots is another significant challenge for healthcare providers. When patients decide to reschedule, an open slot becomes available, which can be difficult to fill, especially if it happens last minute.
A telemedicine solution can help the patients reschedule an appointment by simply sending a text. With the help of 2-way text messaging, physicians may let the patients know the best available time slot for them, allowing their patients to book the best slot that fits their schedule.
What are the benefits text messaging for a medical practice?
2-way text messaging in medical practices offers many advantages. Three notable benefits include:
SMS can streamline day-to-day clinic tasks. When the office is busy, it can be challenging for the front desk staff to answer phone calls. Text messaging can relieve some of the pressure because they don’t require simultaneous communications between the staff and clinic staff like phone calls.
Patients might feel discouraged from calling their healthcare providers if they know they have to wait on hold. When texting, patients can simply send a message, and clinic staff will reply at a more opportune moment. That process makes it easier for patients to schedule an appointment or inquire about potential treatment options.
Minimizes Administrative Work
Automating various tasks from secure texting platforms can help healthcare providers reduce the workload in a clinic. Medical practices can configure automatic texts to send reminders and provide intake forms.
Increases Patient Satisfaction
Patients don’t want to take time out of their busy schedules to spend hours on the phone or on hold. They also don’t want to come into a clinic just to ask a question or schedule an appointment. SMS is a more convenient option — these communications only take minutes. Texting creates a more streamlined healthcare experience. Because of the convenience it makes, 89% of consumers prefer texting when it comes to their providers. Secure text messaging can be a major factor for patients to seek care from your practice in the future.
Is HIPAA important for patient texting?
As previously mentioned, sharing sensitive health information via traditional text can lead to massive fines and even criminal charges for the healthcare provider. HIPAA exists to protect patients’ PHI. Here are a few examples of what the law covers:
- Healthcare bills
- Insurance documents
- Patient contact data
- Lab results
- Biometric identifiers
Text messages are not considered a secure form of communication because there’s no way to guarantee that the person reading is the intended recipient. If the patient doesn’t have a secure passcode on their phone and someone gains access to their device, the third party could potentially read a text that contains PHI. Even if this situation doesn’t happen, sending messages with PHI via text is a violation of HIPAA.
You must integrate a secure texting platform to avoid HIPAA violations. It’s important to comply with HIPAA at all times, especially when you disclose sensitive patient information. Traditional texting however, doesn’t grant you full protection. Keep in mind that implementing a secure text messaging platform is a more viable option if you want to use SMS and keep your communication secure at the same time.
Breaking a HIPAA rule can lead to fines that vary drastically depending on the extent of the data breach and the healthcare provider’s level of negligence.
A minor infraction can lead to a fine of $100. Significant data breaches could lead to fines of $50,000 per violation.
If the healthcare provider uses non-compliant resources to knowingly disclose patient PHI, the consequences can be more severe. District attorneys may prosecute offending healthcare personnel, resulting in criminal charges and possibly jail time.
Implement secure text messaging with Curogram’s all-in-one telemedicine platform.
There’s no way to disclose PHI via text without breaking HIPAA rules, which is why using most third-party texting solutions breaks the rules.
Curogram doesn’t send sensitive data through texts directly. Instead, we send secure and encrypted links to patients that only they can access.
You can use our advanced texting features to communicate with patients without worrying about HIPAA fines.
Another benefit of sending data through links to documents is that the format is preserved. Physicians don’t have to type out lab results or other vital data into a custom message and hope that the patient can read it correctly.
Texting is one of the many useful features Curogram offers healthcare providers. Curogram is a HIPAA compliant telemedicine platform that helps patients confirm, schedule, and reschedule appointments, send electronic data, and ask their physicians questions about their conditions or treatments through secure 2-way text messaging. If you want to know more about Curogram’s features, book a demo today.