Text messaging is one of the most popular forms of communication on Earth. Over 2.2 trillion text messages are sent in the US alone each year – so it’s no surprise that nurses, doctors, clinicians, and hospital staff are using this method of communication to exchange clinical information.
However, this presents some serious issues when it comes to electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). The HIPAA standards implemented in 1996 lay out some very specific restrictions on how ePHI can be shared – and noncompliance can bring stiff penalties.
And while securing communications to ensure HIPAA compliance is important, the day-to-day needs of hospital staff shouldn’t be overlooked. IT and data compliance staff should focus on providing a comprehensive, secure communications system – but should also prioritize the needs of healthcare workers, increasing collaboration and patient outcomes.
To help you do so, we’ve put together this quick list of 3 tips that will ensure maximum communications security, and provide healthcare workers with the tools they need for effective collaboration.
1. First, Understand HIPAA
There is no such thing as a “HIPAA-compliant” app. This is because HIPAA compliance goes much further than simple data encryption or security. HIPAA sets for a wide variety of physical, technical, and administrative guidelines – all of which must be followed to be truly HIPAA-compliant.
Essentially, HIPAA is technology-neutral. While a secure app is certainly helpful in ensuring HIPAA-compliance, you can still violate the terms of HIPAA if you lack other ePHI safeguards that ensure the confidentiality of all ePHI transmitted, received, or maintained by your organization.
There is no HIPAA “Magic Bullet”. Find a great, secure communications app and use it – but be aware that that’s not enough to ensure compliance.
2. Understand Team Care Dynamics
Before you attempt to change the way that members of your team communicate, you should have a deep understanding of how they communicate.
Team communication dynamics are extremely dynamic in a hospital setting. Communication varies depending on schedules, patient location, the purpose of communication, on-call schedules, the time of day, and much more.
To truly establish an effective, secure communications system, you should understand how you can maintain the same level of communication within your staff – but ensure that their individual communications meet HIPAA standards, and minimize your risk of noncompliance.
3. Effective Care Team Collaboration Should Come First
What good is HIPAA-compliance if you’re using complicated tools that reduce the quality of care delivered at your hospital or practice?
Effective care team collaboration is absolutely crucial to delivering high quality of care to patients – and though HIPAA compliance is important, it’s critical that your practice emphasizes strong care team communication.
When team members across different professional specialties collaborate, amazing things happen. Quality of care skyrockets, effective team communication becomes easier, and all involved healthcare practitioners feel fully engaged and valued.
So don’t just focus on HIPAA-compliance. Use your communication tools to make your hospital a better place – for employees and patients alike.
Follow These Tips – And HIPAA Compliance Will Come Along For The Ride
While HIPAA compliance should be a priority for your organization, it shouldn’t overwhelm the basic communication and collaboration requirements of your staff.
So don’t focus exclusively on HIPAA compliance. Implement all relevant safeguards, but focus on allowing healthcare teams to collaborate effectively, using smart, HIPAA-compliant tools. Done correctly, this approach will allow you to easily comply with HIPAA ePHI standards, and increase the quality of care delivered by your team.