Best HIPAA-compliant text messaging and chat apps

By the time you get done reading this paragraph, about 1 million text messages will have been sent. That’s because 23 billion text messages are sent worldwide each day — approximately 270,000 each second. It’s a convenient and efficient piece of technology, which is why it’s increasingly being used by many healthcare practitioners as a way to stay in touch with patients and colleagues.

However, text messages aren’t secure. They’re not encrypted in any way, and they can be intercepted when you’re sending or receiving them — which is unacceptable if they contain protected health information (PHI). That’s why it’s important to use HIPAA-compliant text messaging apps that securely transmit personal information.

Just so you know

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The importance of secure messaging apps

Secure text messaging apps for healthcare facilities are necessary to ensure that the organization and other HIPAA-covered entities are complying with the administrative, physical, and technical requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule.

While they resemble commercially available messaging apps and provide the same speed and convenience, secure text messaging apps for healthcare organizations also have mechanisms in place to protect PHI and prevent unauthorized disclosure. Below are five HIPAA-compliant text messaging apps that can help you efficiently communicate with your patients and colleagues.

1. OhMD

Trusted by more than 300,000 healthcare professionals, OhMD is a HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform that allows you to send and receive intake forms, surveys, images, and files. You can also send appointment reminders. OhMD includes over 50 EHR integrations.

A unique feature is the two-way SMS patient texting available in OhMD’s Video Visits. You can text from the same place where you launch a patient video visit.

And instead of having to download an app or use a different system for a video doctor visit, patients receive a text message from their provider with a link that launches the video right from their mobile browser or computer.

OhMD offers three plans, ranging from Basic (free), Plus ($7 per user, per month), and Reach (which requires you to reach out to a sales rep for a quote).

2. TigerConnect

Not only does TigerConnect allow you to sync messages among your devices, like your phone and computer, but it also allows you to recall a message if you send it to the wrong person. Other key features include

  • Priority messaging, which puts important messages at the top of your inbox and sends an alert that’s different from a regular text message
  • The ability to create groups to improve workflow collaboration and see when team members have read your message
  • Automatic erasure of your sent messages after a specified time period

According to the company, TigerConnect uses 256-bit AES encryption to send and receive messages. The messages themselves can’t be copied, pasted, or forwarded. In addition, users have to authenticate their identity with a unique username and password before they can access data through TigerConnect’s secure messaging platform.

TigerConnect has been awarded the HITRUST Certification, which means it meets all of the information security requirements of the HITRUST CSF Assurance Program.

Pricing for TigerConnect is available upon request.

3. Halo Health

A cloud-based system hosted through Amazon Web Services, Halo Health offers a HIPAA-compliant secure texting app that allows providers to send and receive PHI-related messages. This increases efficiency and decreases healthcare clinicians’ liability.

Key features include message status notifications, auto-forwarding with sender notification, and “safe text,” which allows users to start new communication threads with any recipient or continue with an older text message thread.

You can also screen messages and alerts when the intended recipient is unavailable. An optional integration with your system’s ADT feed allows you to attach basic patient health information to a secure text message thread within the secure texting app.

You have to contact the company directly for a price quote.

4. Providertech

Providertech enables healthcare organizations to provide better quality care, outcomes, and experiences for patients, leveraging mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, and deep clinical expertise to reach patients when and where they need care.

Providertech’s CareMessenger is a HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform that allows providers and healthcare practices to securely message patients and other health professionals by sending HIPAA-compliant texts, photos, and documents. Encryption ensures that sensitive information remains secure. In addition, users must authenticate their identity before they can access text messages.

The secure texting platform integrates with most major EHRs, practice management systems, and organizational directories, allowing you to automate customized workflows based on your unique business needs. The two-way platform addresses many of the common challenges in patient communication, such as eliminating phone tag, which reduces the time spent making phone calls and leaving messages as well as frustration for both clinicians and patients. It also promotes better patient engagement, leading to improved clinical outcomes in care.

For example, one health system is leveraging secure texting to help patients experiencing domestic violence to stay in more frequent contact with a behavioral health provider and case manager. As a result of the increased communication, patients feel safer and at less risk of violence.

Providertech’s HIPAA texting platform runs off Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, ensuring adherence with HITRUST CSF Assurance Program security requirements.

You can contact Providertech for a customized solution and pricing package that meets the needs of your organization.

5. Spok

Not only does Spok provide secure messaging features, but it also integrates with your EHR and other clinical systems. This HIPAA-compliant text messaging app helps you streamline workflows and keep PHI safe.

Additionally, Spok will keep messages so that you have a full audit trail. It also offers sent and read receipts. Other features include encryption, the ability to lock down the application, automatic message removal, and a remote wiping feature for your device.

One of the more interesting features of Spok is the Spok Device Preference Engine (DPE). This ensures that messages are sent to the right people, on the devices they want to receive messages on. Taking into consideration message priority — Low, Normal, or High — a message is sent to a specific device based on the urgency level.

For example, a provider might choose to have urgent messages sent to their smartphone, which they always have on them. For low-priority messages, they could opt to have those sent to their email account, so those messages don’t clog their smartphone.

To find the pricing package that works best for your organization’s goals and requirements, contact the company for a quote.

Choosing a HIPAA-compliant texting app

In today’s busy world, the ability to communicate with your patients in an efficient and safe manner is more important than ever. As the use of text messaging continues to rise, it’s critical that you have a secure system that protects PHI so that you can maintain compliance and communication while decreasing liability.

This article is originally published on Apr 10, 2020, and updated on Apr 16, 2021.
AUTHOR
Firm believer in personal data privacy in the age of information. Close follower of the new regulations concerning patient confidentiality & HIPAA. You can reach George through his contact form. The views stated herein are for discussion only, and are not intended to constitute medical advice or any other advice, procedures, or guidelines for diagnosing or treating any medical condition or for any aspect of the practice of medicine.

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