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Telcoms Store SMS Text Message Details – Not HIPAA Compliant

Posted on June 27, 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.

As an extension to my previous post called “Texting is Not HIPAA Secure” I wanted to point out some data that Wired posted about Telcom’s SMS message retention policies.

The information was found in a Department of Justice document and I believe is a good illustration for why PHI should not be sent through traditional SMS text messaging. Here’s the chart that wired created showing the major Telcom providers record retention policies:

The top 2 sections are the most important when it comes to secure text messaging. Last I checked, the telcom servers weren’t HIPAA secure. Not to mention, I can’t say I’ve seen a Telcom provider sign a business associate agreement with a healthcare provider. Neither of things are likely to ever happen.

The challenge is that text message is so valuable in healthcare. It’s such a simple and flexible way to communicate between doctors, nurses, staff, HIM, etc etc etc. This is why I predict over the next year we’re going to see a huge uptick in adoption of secure text messaging by third parties. The technology is there. We just need wider spread adoption of it in healthcare.

WebMD.com Goes Mobile With Well-Developed App

Posted on I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

One of my favorite health-related websites is WebMD.com, so of course I had to download the app when it became available. While I was disappointed that the WebMD Baby app isn’t available for Android, there is a WebMD app for both Apple and Android platforms. Here is the description provided on Google Play Store:

WebMD for Android helps you with your decision-making and health improvement efforts by providing mobile access 24/7 to mobile-optimized health information and decision-support tools including WebMD’s Symptom Check, Drugs & Treatments, First Aid Information and Local Health Listings. WebMD the App also gives you access to first aid information without having to be connected wirelessly — critical if you don’t have Internet access in the time of need.

For the most part, I really like the app. It is easy to navigate and has a lot of different features. You can sign up for an account with WebMD if you don’t have one, or link an already existing account. Either way, it doesn’t take too long to get into the app.

There are five main sections to the app, which were mentioned in the description above. They can be accessed from the front page of the app, which looks like this:

When selecting the “Symptom Checker” for the first time, I was asked my age, zip code, and gender. I’m not sure if it would ask this if any of the other sections were accessed first. I’m guessing this information is asked just so results can be more customized to your demographic.

I really like the symptoms checker. A digital figure of a body (male or female, depending on what you selected originally) where you select the part of your body that is currently of concern. From there, a list of potential diagnoses come up. Unfortunately, this portion for the app rarely works for me. It says it cannot connect without an Internet connection, even though my phone is connected through the Internet and my data plan. Because of this, I can’t really vouch for the usefulness of this, but if I ever can get it to work, I think it would be kind of neat. As such, I typically select the “list” view, where a list of body parts comes up. It’s nice to be able to scroll through and see different illness and read more about them, including the symptoms. However, as I mentioned in my post about the Internet and hypochondriacs, I have spent far too much time browsing the symptoms. That’s not the apps fault though!

Under the conditions tab, there are a few options. First, My Conditions. Here, you can login to a WebMD account and save conditions you are currently diagnosed with, drugs being used, and first aid information. Then there is the top searches tab, which shows just that — the top searched conditions. And finally, there is an A-Z list of all conditions that have available information on WebMD.

Drugs and treatments has the options as My Conditions does, but there is an additional section called Pill ID. I think this is a pretty neat little feature. You can figure out what type of pill something is (like, maybe you have to take several different pills and you’ve put them into a pill box, only to forget later on which pill is which) by selecting the shape, color, or imprint. There are a lot of different shapes and colors to choose from, and the option is available to type in any letters or numbers on a pill.

The First Aid section gives detailed information on how to treat various things, from asthma attacks to heart attacks to jellyfish stings. These are, of course, only supposed to be used as guidelines, and if there is a true emergency, it says to call 911 immediately. This is a great reference guide though, even if its an emergency, because I believe that its important to try and do something while waiting for medical assistance to arrive. I like this feature a lot.

Finally there is the local health listings. Here, you can search for a physician, pharmacy, or hospital near you. You must have a name or speciality in mind when selecting either of these, but from there, it will bring up a list of names, hospitals, or pharmacies nearby with all the necessary information (phone number, address, map, etc.). Having traveled a good amount in the past few months, and in some cases needed to find a pharmacy in an unfamiliar area, this would have been really helpful to have!

Overall, its a great app. I’d even go as far as saying its a necessary one for everyone to have on their phone. I think it is unfortunate that, beyond the first aid section, an Internet connection is required, but beyond that, I don’t have any complaints!

Download here for Apple devices

Download here for Android