Healthcare News & Insights

SMS SOS: Secure texting strategies for your hospital

There are a host of technology challenges hospitals face, including electronic health records (EHR) systems integration. But one of the biggest ones is managing how personal mobile devices are used for work. Since almost everyone owns a smartphone or uses one for professional purposes, implementing secure texting strategies is more important than ever for your facility. 

In fact, hospital CIOs will spend much of next year focusing on mobile technology usage, according to a survey from healthcare communications company Spok. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they’re working to develop their hospitals’ mobile strategies.

Putting more emphasis on mobile technology means using it for a variety of hospital activities, including:

  • secure texting about patient care
  • medication administration
  • clinical documentation, and
  • care team assignments.

Texting pros

Most hospitals allow for some kind of mobile messaging, whether via hospital-issued devices or staff members’ own phones.

However, there can be challenges when using mobile devices to conduct hospital business. The most serious one is protecting patient info. Not all cell phones have appropriate security measures, and staff members who don’t know how to keep patient information secure can accidentally cause data breaches.

Of the survey’s respondents, 72% said they’re using secure texting procedures to ensure staff can communicate with cellphones while still keeping patient info safe and providing the best possible care.

What’s the difference between secure texting and regular messaging? Secure texting is usually done through apps designed specifically for those in the healthcare industry. Those apps can:

  • work with an organization’s EHR to attach messages to patient records
  • integrate with a hospital’s internal network to coordinate scheduling
  • encrypt messages to protect info in them, and
  • track when messages were sent and delivered.

The most important step when developing secure texting procedures is to make sure policies are clear. That way, staff members know what’s appropriate to send via text.

Buy-in and funding

Although more hospitals are implementing secure texting, there are still some hurdles to overcome. Funding can be a serious roadblock to getting secure texting initiatives off the ground. Physician buy-in and adoption can also be issues.

Most survey respondents said they’re hoping to improve buy-in using several approaches, such as appointing physician reps to the planning committees for mobile strategies and developing internal champions to boost staff’s perception of these strategies.

Emphasizing the positive aspects of secure texting is key when trying to convince docs and other staff members to adopt the new technologies. Make sure they’re aware of the benefits for patients and themselves when using secure texting apps, and buy-in shouldn’t be a struggle.

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