- As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve and impact the healthcare industry, it is essential that providers are able to maintain communications to ensure patients receive necessary care. Healthcare secure messaging and secure texting are quickly becoming a top option to send information while still keeping sensitive data secured.
Nearly three-quarters of the American Hospital Association’s Hospital & Health Networks (H&HN) Most Wired hospitals reported that they offer secure messaging with clinicians on mobile devices. Seventy-four percent of the hospitals added they use secure emails for patients and families to maintain contact with the care team when patients require ongoing monitoring at home.
“The Most Wired hospitals are using every available technology option to create more ways to reach their patients in order to provide access to care,” AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement. “They are transforming care delivery, investing in new delivery models in order to improve quality, provide access and control costs.”
Mobile devices can also be a way for patients to take a more active role in their own care. Sixty-two percent of the Most Wired hospitals said they can simplify the prescription renewal process by letting patients make the requests on mobile devices.
Healthcare secure messaging and secure texting can ensure that physicians, clinicians, or nurses can be more easily reached, regardless of their location. Updated communication options can also be beneficial during disaster recovery, helping covered entities and even business associates maintain proper patient care when other tools are offline.
Streamlining the patient care process
Opting for secure messaging or secure texting can help healthcare providers implement a more seamless way to provide patient care.
For example, Island Health was trying to steer away from its reliance on pagers when it chose to switch over to smartphones and a new messaging option.
“We would sit down at a landline, page a physician and then they would wait for that physician to call back,” Dr. Sean Spina, who is a coordinator of Island Health’s clinical pharmacy program told HealthITSecurity.com in a previous interview. “Then they would end up saying to a unit clerk or someone else, ‘When Dr. ABC calls back, can you tell him about this important drug issue?’ We were wasting a lot of time just sitting there by a landline waiting for it to ring.”
Island Health is a Canadian health authority, meaning the organization must adhere to Canadian privacy regulations with regard to patient information security. Spina said that some commercial texting tools send the messages outside of Canada before delivering them to recipient, which violates provincial privacy legislation. Island Health needed to ensure that all communications containing personal information stay on Canadian soil.
“That, along with the idea that we needed a Global Address List in place so that staff knew who was calling, got us to the point of implementing the Vocera Collaboration Suite with local servers for our second project,” Spina said.
READ MORE: BYOD Security in the Healthcare Setting
Secure texting is part of the first phase of the project Island Health is rolling out, but Spina said the organization is willing to consider other features down the road.
“The Vocera Collaboration Suite does have the ability to integrate with the EHR in the future so that we could actually receive notifications from the EHR,” he said. “And there’s a multitude of different things that can be done with it, but physicians have expressed over the last couple projects that we need to keep it simple to improve physician use of the product.”
One other way that secure messaging could be utilized is in an entity’s disaster recovery plan, which is a benefit that Idaho-based Bingham Memorial Hospital learned earlier this year.
Bingham Director of Information Technology Robert Weis told HealthITSecurity.com that Bingham originally invested in DrFirst for a backline messaging tool. The program was funded mostly in terms of meaningful use, with some of the security aspects of meaningful use being the product’s original intent.
“It took us about a year to get our policies for some things, like Bring Your Own Device in place,” Weis said. “There was just a lot of the back and forth and clarification with the Joint Commission over secure messaging. It took us a little while to get all the politics sorted out. Even though it had been funded, there was still a big question about how to roll it out and what was the impact supposed to be, how to enforce it, those kind of things.”
The secure messaging was an essential tool though when Bingham happened to lose power during the solar eclipse that took place in August 2017.
“Whether it was coincidental or not [with the eclipse], we still don't know exactly, but at that moment it was like, ‘Wow. Let's try the tool. Let's broadcast to the team,’” Weis explained. “Obviously within a few minutes, 30 to 40 people had read the message so they knew what was going on.”
All of the planning and deployment process in using the secure messaging tool was proven to be worth it once Bingham was able to continue communications during that time, Weis stressed.
“We just didn't know,” he said. “It could've got worse that day. Things could have gone downhill even more so and we could have wished we had some tools at our disposal.”