Every industry across the board seems to be running full speed ahead when it comes to integrating mobile technologies into the work place and enhancing work product and customer satisfaction. The healthcare industry, however, seems to fall behind when it comes to utilizing messaging apps, despite the great benefits it could bring about in patient care.
Hospital-based clinicians are still mostly shackled to their pagers. According to a Journal of Hospital Medicine research, only 27% of hospital-based clinicians reported that their work-place had implemented a secure messaging application that some clinicians were using. Without secure messaging apps that adhere to HIPAA regulations, no one working with sensitive patient information can communicate about these details via messaging.
Despite the regulation, some of the respondents in the survey admitted that messaging apps were being used against protocol. And it makes sense. Much like any other industry, physicians and other healthcare workers want to be able to utilize the quick, easy, and familiar messaging apps to get their work done more efficiently.
Would messaging options enhance patient care?
It seems clear that implementing HIPAA-compliant messaging apps in the healthcare industry would greatly improve patient care. For a start, it would protect the information that today is being sent over unsecured and improper channels. According to the research, nearly 21% of the 567 respondents stated that they had received text messages that included individually identifiable information, such as the name of the patient. Another 41% said they received messages that included some identifiable information, such as patient initials.
That means that patient privacy expectations are being violated and information that is supposed to be kept secure can be discovered.
More than that, secure messaging apps would allow doctors to communicate more easily. They could communicate with their patients through secure channels, which also means the communications are archived and can be added to patient records.
Collaboration among healthcare staff would be enhanced, as it would allow physicians to easily share information and update each other on joint patients to provide a more holistic view of their condition, or to get a second opinion. Healthcare institutions will have better records of these collaborations to call upon if needed, and can also ensure that the messaging app they purchase has the features needed to allow the best transferring of information, for example maintaining a certain quality when transferring scans so details are not missed.
The East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has implemented a secure text messaging system that it says it uses for many purposes, among them communication with the parents of the patients. It allows the parents to feel more involved in their child’s care and makes it easier for parents and staff to communicate, for example by letting parents know they can pick up their child to return them to their rooms after tests or treatments are complete. This can take a lot of the hysteria surrounding hospital visits out of the picture. A parent wouldn’t have to worry about going to grab a coffee or eat lunch while their child is being treated, because they know that they will be notified as soon as the procedure is over.
The benefits of introducing HIPAA compliant secure messaging systems into the healthcare industry are endless and it is time the industry steps up to the plate and allows healthcare professionals the opportunity to fully utilize their mobile devices as communication tools that enhance patient care.