Healthcare Mobile Messaging Apps and HIPAA

Submitted by admin on Mon, 12/21/2015 - 13:49

New research shows that only 25% of healthcare institutions who make use of an official mobile messaging app are using internal, company-authorized tools. This number startling because it means that the other 75% of healthcare institutions are using consumer apps, which don’t meet the security standards needed for HIPAA compliance.


One explanation for the high rates of non-secure app use by healthcare institutions could involve quickly evolving standards of communication. The healthcare industry is constantly working to make communication faster and to improve healthcare for patients. As Anurag Lal, CEO of Infinite Convergence Solutions, the mobile messaging developer that sponsored the study, puts it, “We are seeing a rapid adoption of mobile messaging in healthcare as the industry looks to work faster, improve patient care, and reduce wasteful spending.” This mission to improve healthcare and streamline communication has perhaps caused security standards to take a backseat. Lal added, "The problem is that many healthcare institutions are not aware that the messaging apps and services that are popular for daily personal use do not follow the administrative, physical and technical safeguards that HIPAA requires.”


The numbers regarding how healthcare institutions monitor the use of consumer messaging apps are also surprising. According to the study, only about 8% of healthcare institutions prohibit employees from using consumer messaging apps for employee communication. And about half of the respondents who participated in the study’s survey reported that their company does not have an official mobile messaging platform.


The study found that about 91% of healthcare employees use mobile messaging at least a few times per week for business purposes. Healthcare employees communicate information that is inherently sensitive, which means that secure mobile messaging will certainly become a top priority in the healthcare industry. As Anurag Lal states, "Healthcare institutions need to get serious about meeting their employees' needs and providing a secure, internal messaging platform that not only allows HIPAA compliance, but also replaces outdated communication systems, like pagers, in order to increase productivity and serve patients faster."


The intersection between rapidly improving technology and continuing HIPAA standards is certainly an intriguing one. Only time will tell how mobile messaging will rise to meet federal guidelines concerning protected health information.