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Doctors turn to texting, raises concerns over HIPAA violations

October 25, 2012
Uncategorized By LW Consulting Inc.

Text messaging has become an increasingly popular form of communication in the rising digital age. Many individuals find it easier to shoot a one-sentence response to someone, rather than try to make a phone call or send an email.

According to recent research, doctors are no different, and are turning to texting as an easy way to contact one another. This blog recently discussed a shift away from pagers, as physicians find the new technology more convenient to communicate internally. However, without a secure system, concern has risen over whether medical facilities can type out texts and remain HIPAA compliant.

"Personally, I probably get 50 to 100 text messages during a shift," Dr. Kuhlmann told Medscape Medical News. "But unlike many physicians, I don't carry a pager, so everything comes to my cell phone."

The University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, Kansas conducted an online survey and results showed that more than one half of the physicians reported sending or receiving work-related text messages.

Out of 106 pediatric hospitals surveyed, 90 percent of responders used a "smart phone," and 96 percent used text messaging.

Less than half of the physicians surveyed - 41 percent - expressed concern over possible HIPAA violations, while 27 percent admitted to receiving protected health information through a text message. However, just 10 percent said that their hospital offered encryption software for texting.

Dr. Daniel Rausch, associate professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, spoke at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2012 National Conference and Exhibition on the matter.

According to Rausch, the medical industry is behind the curve when it comes to text messaging. He hopes that the University of Kansas study will help healthcare facilities better understand how to effectively use the technology in a safe and secure way.