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Using Secure Healthcare Texting for HIE Communication

The New Hampshire Health Information Organization implemented secure healthcare texting to improve care coordination and overall communication.

By Elizabeth Snell

- Whether a healthcare organization opts for BYOD strategies or prefers to distribute corporate-owned devices, secure healthcare texting is quickly becoming a popular way to communicate.

Secure healthcare texting option improves NHHIO communications

With the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO) recently lifting its ban on using secure texting for physician orders, there are even more potential uses for this type of digital communication.

For the New Hampshire Health Information Organization (NHHIO), utilizing secure healthcare texting was an ideal option as a way to improve care coordination and the overall communication between its providers.

More providers in the state had also implemented some type of basic secure texting, so as the aggregate and convening organization NHHIO took it upon itself to find the right program, NHHIO Executive Director Jeff Loughlin told HealthITSecurity.com.

“We are the statewide HIE for the state, and we do not have any type of central repository of data,” Loughlin explained. “We focus on the secure transport of data to send PHI between organizations.”

READ MORE: Joint Commission Lifts Ban on Clinician Secure Texting

NHHIO also serves as a consulting role across New Hampshire to generally implement improvements and help with information technology, he added. Therefore, NHHIO is limited in what it can do sometimes, based on the functionality or the capabilities of electronic health records.

Loughlin said that NHHIO reviewed the secure messaging options and opted for TigerText.

“We worked with TigerText to come up with a program, a plan, and a cost that will be beneficial to our providers so they can really augment the EHR capabilities with this direct communications via the secure texting.”

In terms of healthcare privacy and security concerns, Loughlin maintained that it was important to focus on the secure communications and that data was encrypted as it moved forward.

“We wanted to make sure that the capabilities are there to share information both timely, but more importantly, securely,” he said. “They’ve also got that added feature of being able to send documents and radiology results, things like that.”

READ MORE: Are Secure Patient Portals a Necessary Step for Providers?

Employee training is key to technological advances

The majority of organizations that are connecting through NHHIO are using BYOD strategies, according to Loughlin.  

“We’re working more as a facilitating organization to bring these two groups together,” he explained, adding that each organization in New Hampshire will contract directly with TigerText. From what he’s seen, the majority of entities are implementing BYOD options.

This is all the more reason why employee training is critical. As with any new piece of technology, doctors, nurses, and staff members at all levels need to understand how it works and how they can use it in a secure way.

If nothing else, it’s important to alleviate the potential for any bad habits to be created, Loughlin said, which occasionally happened with EHR implementation.

READ MORE: Secure Texting, App Security Top Mobile Health Topics

“A lot of folks would bypass the training [in secure texting], thinking that it’s kind of intuitive, which in some areas it is. But, if you don’t get that baseline, core training done, you may either miss some of the key functionalities or you’ll build bad habits in terms of workflow.

As NHHIO members, we’re really supporting the need and making sure that the organizations put the opportunity to go through that training on their priority list. That way they really understand all the nuances of the product, all the functionality, all the benefits that it brings to their practice.”

The immediate and long-term benefits of secure texting

The short-term and long-term benefits of implementing a secure healthcare texting option are very much tied together, according to Loughlin.

NHHIO is limited in what it can do from a technology standpoint, and those limitations can also be largely based on legislative constraints.

“We know that we want to be the organization that provides that overarching view and consulting opportunity for the technology needs of the practice,” he explained. “We integrate very well, and routinely collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Hospital Association, the Medical Society.”

NHHIO focuses on staying the convening organization that brings those overarching organizations together.

“We have a good view of what the needs are for the healthcare community, and we want to then look across the spectrum of vendors to bring those ‘best of breed’ vendors to really support the patient care needs of our providers.”

For other healthcare organizations looking to potentially implement their own secure healthcare texting option, Loughlin maintained that conducting thorough research on what is available is essential.

Conducting your own due diligence to look at vendors, their capabilities, and their functionalities that they bring to the table will help covered entities find the most applicable option.

“That’s the best thing you can do. Just make sure that you pull the covers back on these vendors to understand their underlying technology, and find out what their training methodology and implementation plans are.”

It is also important to understand what a vendor’s functionality is in terms of their integration with other systems, as well as their interoperability with other systems. 

“Those are probably two of the buzz words that are out there,” Loughlin said. “We know that there isn’t a single system that will solve all the provider’s needs, and they are going to need to look at multiple systems.”

Overall, finding the secure healthcare texting platform that will best augment an organization’s services will go a long way in improving communications and helping to prioritize patient care. 

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