The growth of value-based care across the country mean today’s patients hold more decision-making power than ever before. From choosing a provider to selecting a specific treatment, they are making healthcare decisions as consumers, and their choices are often driven by technology. As mobile health continues to expand, a growing number of patients are looking for providers who offer mobile options, such as text messaging to manage their care.
Is texting patient information a HIPAA violation?
While HIPAA does not specifically prohibit sending SMS text messages to patients, healthcare organizations should make sure that the following safeguards are in place to ensure the confidentiality of the protected health information (PHI) in the message:
- The message must comply with the HIPAA Minimum Necessary Standard
- Policies and controls must be in place that govern who can access the PHI
- The sender receives documented consent from the patient stating that he or she has been made aware of the risk of unauthorized disclosure and consents to communicate by text
- The Covered Entity uses a messaging app with the necessary controls and encryption in place to support HIPAA-compliant texting
Healthcare providers who comply with these regulations can leverage their patients’ enthusiasm for text messaging to improve communication and drive stronger engagement with them. Need more proof? Here are five reasons patients increasingly seek text-message communication.
1. We live in a “wireless America.” – It’s harder to reach someone on a landline phone today, mainly because they’re increasingly rare. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans own a mobile phone, 77% own a smartphone, and for the first time in history, a majority of American homes do not have a landline phone. With more people using cell phones and other mobile devices as their primary contact number, they’re more likely to send and reply to text messages, including those from healthcare providers.
2. Faster Responses – Rather than needing to return a missed call or email from a doctor’s office, texting offers patients a faster, more convenient way to respond. It only takes a few seconds to reply to a text, which eliminates the hassle of finding time during a busy workday to call or email to confirm, reschedule or cancel an office visit.
3. Meeting Patient Expectations – Whether buying airline tickets, booking a ride or depositing a check, today’s consumers are already accustomed to receiving text messages from companies. With the average American sending more than 30 texts per day, text messaging has quickly become one of the most popular ways for businesses to communicate with customers, and patients are starting to expect that same type of interaction with healthcare providers.
4. Better Patient Engagement – Not only are patients already accustomed to receiving texts, when it comes to their health, they want to receive them. Text reminders help patients stay connected with their providers, improving their likelihood of staying on track to meet their health goals. Research from the American Heart Association found that automated text reminders about physical activity helped cardiology patients walk an additional 2,500 steps per day. And a 2017 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that text messages rank among patients’ most preferred types of appointment reminders.
5. Reaching the Baby Boomers – While the texting trend may have started among teens and young adults, the age gap in technology usage continues to shrink. Some 80% of adults age 65 and older have a cell phone, and 42% have a smartphone. And more than 90% of smartphone owners over age 50 text weekly, according to data from the annual Simmons National Consumer Survey. Although they may require more healthcare services as they age, today’s retirees typically stay on the go, traveling, volunteering, taking classes or working part-time. As a result, many are more likely to be reached on their mobile device, and providers that serve this growing demographic should seize the opportunity to engage with them through text messaging.
Looking for more information on how to text appointment reminders to patients? Learn about Phreesia’s patient appointment scheduling software.