In the United States, the health industry is becoming the largest employer with the number of administrative employees, clerks and receptionists vastly surpassing the number of physicians. Keeping track of all the people working in a medical facility is impossible, especially when the strict regulations imposed by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) on transfer and storage of medical records are made vain by the numerous messaging applications such as WhatsApp.
Today, many hospitals and clinics still rely on obsolete communication processes, including pagers and loudspeakers. Not only these outdated communication systems hinder the staff’s ability to keep up with patient needs, but they do not ensure the confidentiality required when sharing information between team members. A HIPAA compliant instant messenger is, therefore, more than just a “useful” application. It’s a system that any modern healthcare facility require to adapt to the modern digital revolution and cater to the needs of all the smartphone users around the world.
The Importance of a HIPAA Compliant Instant Messaging System
To simplify the communication systems of a healthcare facility, installing an instant messaging application may not be enough. To ensure that patient privacy is maintained at all times, any messaging system used internally must be HIPAA compliant. Patient information and Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) must, in fact, remain secure and confidential at all times, and especially during transmission.
However, a HIPAA compliant instant messenger will also help streamline the work and improve the efficiency of the entire organization. With the right messaging technology, the workflow of doctors and hospital staff is simplified as they can communicate more effectively and quickly. For example, files such as prescriptions, CT scans, follow-up visits, and treatment schedules can be rapidly shared with no risk of violating patient privacy.
Instant messaging also allows physician and nurses to notify their colleagues about a patient condition or if a treatment has been administered without the need to locate the other person physically. As healthcare professionals can communicate their tasks immediately, they can move on to other patients making their job easier. Similarly, written messages are much clearer than loudspeakers, and can be used to communicate even complex instructions. Especially in the case of emergencies, a messaging system can help the practitioner understand where their attention is needed most.
Ultimately, if a healthcare organization refuses to use an instant messaging system that is compliant with HIPAA, the penalties can be very steep, with fines reaching up to $50,000.