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Secure Text Messaging is Univerally Needed in Healthcare

Posted on April 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve written regularly about the need for secure text messaging in healthcare. I can’t believe that it was two years ago that I wrote that Texting is Not HIPAA Secure. Traditional SMS texting on your cell phone is not HIPAA secure, but there are a whole lot of alternatives. In fact, in January I made the case for why even without HIPAA Secure Text Messaging was a much better alternative to SMS.

Those that know me (or read my byline at the end of each article) know that I’m totally bias on this front since I’m an adviser to secure text message company, docBeat. With that disclaimer, I encourage all of you to take a frank and objective look at the potential for HIPAA violations and the potential benefits of secure text over SMS and decide for yourself if there is value in these secure messaging services. This amazing potential is why I chose to support docBeat in the first place.

While I’ve found the secure messaging space really interesting, what I didn’t realize when I started helping docBeat was how many parts of the healthcare system could benefit from something as simple as a secure text message. When we first started talking about the secure text, we were completely focused on providers texting in ambulatory practices and hospitals. We quickly realized the value of secure texting with other members of the clinic or hospital organization like nurses, front desk staff, HIM, etc.

What’s been interesting in the evolution of docBeat was how many other parts of the healthcare system could benefit from a simple secure text message solution. Some of these areas include things like: long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, Quick Care, EDs, Radiology, Labs, rehabilitation centers, surgery centers, and more. This shouldn’t have been a surprise since the need to communicate healthcare information that includes PHI is universal and a simple text message is often the best way to do it.

The natural next extension for secure messaging is to connect it to patients. The beautiful part of secure text messaging apps like docBeat is that patients aren’t intimidated by a the messages they receive from docBeat. The same can’t be said for most patient portals which require all sorts of registration, logins, forms, etc. Every patient I know is happy to read a secure text message. I don’t know many that want to login to a portal.

Over the past couple years the secure text messaging tide has absolutely shifted and there’s now a land grab for organizations looking to implement some form of secure text messaging. In some ways it reminds me of the way organizations were adopting EHR software a few years back. However, we won’t need $36 billion to incentivize the adoption of secure text message. Instead, market pressures will make it happen naturally. Plus, with ICD-10 delayed another year, hopefully organizations will have time to focus on small but valuable projects like secure text messaging.

Healthcare Data Centers and Cloud Solutions

Posted on March 4, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As a former system administrator that worked in a number of data centers, it’s been really interesting for me to watch the evolution of healthcare data centers and the concept of healthcare cloud solutions. I think we’re seeing a definite switch by many hospital CIOs towards the cloud and away from the hassle and expense of trying to run their own data centers. Plus, this is facilitated greatly by the increased reliability, speed, and quality of the bandwidth that’s available today. Sure, the largest institutions will still have their own data centers, but even those organizations are working with an outside data center as well.

I had a chance to sit down for a video interview with Jason Mendenhall, Executive Vice President, Cloud at Switch Supernap to discuss the changing healthcare data center and cloud environment. We cover a lot of ground in the interview including when someone should use cloud infrastructure and when they shouldn’t. We talk about the security and reliability of a locally hosted data center versus an outside data center. We also talk a little about why Las Vegas is a great place for them to have their data center.

If you’re a healthcare organization who needs a data center (Translation: All of you) or if you’re a healthcare IT company that needs to host your application (Translation: All of you), then you’ll learn a lot from this interview with Jason Mendenhall:

As a side note, the Switch Supernap’s Innevation Center is the location for the Health IT Marketing and PR Conference I’m organizing April 7-8, 2014 in Las Vegas. If you’re attending the conference, we can also set you up for a tour of the Switch Supernap while you’re in Vegas. The tour is a bit like visiting a tech person’s Disneyland. They’ve created something really amazing when it comes to data centers. I know since a secure text message company I advise, docBeat, is hosted there with one of their cloud partners Itrica.

The Guide to HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging

Posted on January 23, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve written regularly about the need to move to HIPAA compliant text messaging, because Texting (SMS) is NOT HIPAA Secure. To add to that, I recently wrote a post on EMR and EHR about Why Secure Text Messaging is Better than SMS. I throw out the whole “fear of HIPAA” component and paint a picture for why every organization should be moving to a secure text message solution instead of using SMS.

While I think a business case can be made for secure text messaging in healthcare over SMS without using HIPAA, the HIPAA implications are important as well. In fact, imprivata has put out The CIO’s Guide to HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging where they make a good case for why HIPAA compliant text messaging is important and how to get there.

The whitepaper suggests that you have to start with Policy, then choose a Product, and then put it into Practice. Sounds like pretty much every health IT project, no? However, the guide also offers a series of really great checklists that can help you make sure you’re covering all of your bases when it comes to implementing a secure text message strategy.

Of course, the biggest challenge to all of this is that everyone is so busy with MU stage 2 and ICD-10. However, when the HIPAA auditors come knocking, I wouldn’t want to be an organization without a secure text message solution. The best way to battle non-HIPAA compliant SMS messaging in your organization is to provide them an alternative.

Full Disclosure: I’m an adviser to HIPAA compliant messaging company docBeat.

Email vs Text for Healthcare Communication

Posted on April 8, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The idea of improving communication in healthcare is always a hot one. For fear of HIPAA and other factors, healthcare seems to lag behind when adopting the latest communication technologies. The most simple examples are email and text message. Both are simple and widely adopted communication technologies and most in healthcare are afraid to use them.

At the core of why people are afraid is because native email is not HIPAA secure and native SMS is not HIPAA secure either. Although, there are a whole suite of communication products that are working to solve the healthcare communication security challenges while still keeping the simplicity of an email or text message. In fact, both of the other companies I’ve started or advise, Physia and docBeat, are focused on the problems of secure email and secure text. Plus, there are dozens of other companies working to improve healthcare communication and hundreds of EMR, PHR, and HIE applications that are integrating these forms of communication into their systems.

As we enter this brave new world of healthcare communication, it’s worth considering some of the intricacies of email vs text. The following tweet is a good place to start.

This is really interesting to note and I can confirm those are the general statistics for most email campaigns out there today. I’m not sure of the number of texts that are open, but it’s clear that the number of text messages that are opened is very high.

The reason this is the case is because of the expectation of what’s inside a text message vs an email. When you receive a text, you can be sure that it won’t take up more than a moment of your time. You can consume it quickly and move on with your life. The same is usually not the case with email (especially email lists). Most of the emails that are sent are lengthy because they can be. We try and pack every option imaginable into an email and so people have an expectation that if they start with the email they’re going to need time. I know this is the case because my email subscribers often thank me for my emails because they know they can get something of value quickly.

I think it was Dan Munro that pointed out an exception to the email open rate. His idea was that if the email contains an action item, then open rates are much higher. This was a good insight. There’s little doubt that if an email contains something that you have to do, then more people will open it and do the action. I don’t get a bill in my email and then don’t open it. I have to open it so I can pay the bill. I’m sure this principle can be applied in a number of ways to healthcare.

As we finally bring these common communication technologies to healthcare we need to be thoughtful about which ones we use and when we use them.

4th Annual New Media Meetup at HIMSS 2013 Sponsored by docBeat

Posted on February 14, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For those of you planning to attend the annual HIMSS Conference in New Orleans, I’m pleased to announce the details for the 4th Annual New Media Meetup at HIMSS 2013.

It’s amazing to think that 4 years have already past since that first event, but I’m really excited by what we’ve put together for all those planning to be in New Orleans for HIMSS. The New Media Meetup is one of the highlights of HIMSS for me each year and I expect this year to be no exception.

A big thanks to docBeat for sponsoring the event and making is possible for those of us in New Media to get together over food and drinks at HIMSS. I hope everyone will check out docBeat and thank them for sponsoring the event.

Now for the details of the event…

Register Here!

When: Tuesday 3/5 6:00-8:00 PM
Where: Mulate’s Party Hall – 743 Convention Center Boulevard, New Orleans, LA MAP
Who: Anyone who uses or is interested in New Media (Blogs, Twitter, Social Media, etc)
What: Food, Drinks, and Amazing People

About Our Sponsor
docBeat Secure Text Messaging Logo
docBeat® allows physicians and other healthcare professionals to seamlessly communicate with one another using their mobile phone or web browser while ensuring HIPAA compliance and avoiding liability issues. Plus, there’s no more dealing with the hassle of being on hold to find out who is on call or busy. docBeat® allows physicians to provide a docBeat phone number to be reached at while keeping their actual phone number private. For more information visit www.docbeat.co.

A big thanks also goes out to Erin and Beth from The Friedman Marketing Group for helping us locate a great venue in New Orleans and helping us plan the event. They are class acts and I always love working with them and their PR company.

Finally, thanks as always to all the members of Influential Networks and Healthcare Scene that help us promote the New Media Meetup. It’s beautiful to use the power of social media to put on such a great social media event at HIMSS.

Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing many of you in New Orleans very soon!

Doctors Increasingly Texting, But HIPAA Protection Lacking

Posted on November 2, 2012 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A new study of physicians working at pediatric hospitals has concluded what we might have assumed anyway — that they prefer the use of SMS texting via mobile phone to pagers. What’s worrisome, however, is that little if any of this communication seems to be going on in a HIPAA-secure manner.

The study, by the University of Kansas School of Medicine at Wichita, asked 106 doctors at pediatric hospitals what avenues they prefer for “brief communication” while at work. Of this group, 27 percent chose texting as their favorite method, 23 percent preferred hospital-issued pagers and 21 percent face to face conversation, according to a report in mHealthWatch.

What’s interesting is that text-friendly or not, 57 percent of doctors said they sent or got work-related text messages.  And 12 percent of pediatricians reported sending more than 10 messages per shift.

With all that texting going on,  you’d figure hospitals would have a policy in place to ensure HIPAA requirements were met. But in reality, few doctors said that their hospital had such a policy in place.

That’s particularly concerning considering that 41 percent of respondents said they received work-related text messages on a personal phone, and only 18 percent on a hospital-assigned phone. I think it’s fair to say that this arrangement is rife with opportunities for HIPAA no-nos.

It’s not that the health IT vendor world isn’t aware that this is a problem; I know my colleague John has covered technology for secure texting between medical professionals and he’s also an advisor to secure text messaging company docBeat. However, not much is going to happen until hospitals get worried enough to identify this as a serious issue and they realize that secure text message can be just as easy as regular text along with additional benefits.

In the mean time, doctors will continue texting away — some getting 50-100 messages a day, according to one researcher — in an uncertain environment.  Seems to me this is a recipe for HIPAA disaster.

Texting is Not HIPAA Secure

Posted on April 17, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I previously posted the somewhat controversial post: Email is Not HIPAA Secure. It was an extremely important post and included 54 incredible comments discussing email security and email in how it relates to HIPAA. Today I want to discuss the security issues related to text (SMS) messages.

The short story is: Texting (SMS) is NOT HIPAA Secure

I recently did a focus group to discuss physician communication. At one point I asked how many of them use text messages to communicate with other doctors. All of them acknowledged that they used it and that they were using it more and more. I then asked how many sent PHI (protected health information) in the text messages that they sent. While the response wasn’t as strong likely because they knew it was a loaded question, they all acknowledged that PHI was sent by text message all of the time.

One doctor even commented, “They’re not going to put us all in jail.”

There is some validity to this comment. They’re not going to go around like an old school lynch mob putting physicians in jail because they sent some patient information in a text message. Although, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t go around handing out hefty fines for HIPAA violations.

Let me be clear that there are secure text message platforms out there. I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately since I’ve been advising a local Vegas Tech iPhone app called docBeat that offers this secure text message functionality for free. In fact, there are quite a few companies that are trying to provide this functionality. Although, I like docBeat because it offers a whole suite of Physician Communication Tools and not just secure text messaging. I think there’s value in a doctor only to have to go to one place for all their communication needs. In a future post, I’ll do a full write up on what docBeat’s offering physicians.

At some point, I think doctors are going to turn the corner and realize that the standard SMS text messaging service that every cell phone has these days is not the right way to communicate. Besides the fact that standard text messaging isn’t secured, it’s also stored forever on the server of your cell phone service provider. Most doctors likely haven’t thought that everything they’ve sent over text could be brought back to haunt them forever.

Other problems with standard text messaging is that you don’t really know what happens with the text message once its sent. Did the text message actually send? Did the person you sent the text message actually receive it? If they received the text message have they read it?

The great thing is that we all finally have realized the value of simple communication with a text message. Now we just need to move to these new secure text messaging platforms that solve the security, reliability and tracking issues with standard text messaging.