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Secure Text Messaging and Email for Medical Practices
Blog Feature

By: Aaron Boatin on February 8th, 2017

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Secure Text Messaging and Email for Medical Practices

Regulation & Compliance

Most health care providers send text messages and emails throughout their day. Unfortunately many are choosing unsecured methods of transmission. Bad news for protecting patient data and worse yet, a clear HIPAA violation.
 
Embracing technology to increase the speed of health care is a good thing, but only if it's done right. This means encrypting PHI to ensure the privacy protection mandated by HIPAA / HITECH act.

Secure Text Messaging for Medical Practices

Implementing secure text messaging for providers is a painless process. The secure text messaging app that you chose can be downloaded from the the Google or Apple app stores.
 
The management of secure text messaging users is easy. Management of the devices is done via web portal so that your IT staff can add, delete or change user settings. If a device is lost or stolen, the data on the phone can be deleted using the 'remote wipe' functionality.
 
Secure text messaging solutions work by hosting the encrypted PHI on hosted secure servers. The phones then access this secure data via the secure texting app.
 
This is a great solution for medical practices where most providers use their own phones. It fits in perfectly with BYOD policies in place at large health care organizations.
 
The best apps mimic the ease of use of regular text messaging making adoption easy and intuitive. They also bring several nice enhancements and integrations. For example, the ability to send and receive images (think x-rays) and audio files saves an enormous amount time.
 
Many medical practices that have implemented secure text messaging have seen huge benefits in productivity. Aside from HIPAA compliance, the speed of communications accelerates dramatically.
 
This has a direct positive effect on patient care.

Encrypted Email

Standard email is not HIPAA complaint. Email that is sent from one user to another is vulnerable at any point along that transfer without email encryption.

Using unencrypted emails not only puts the content of the emails at risk but also the identities of the sender and receiver.

About Encrypted Email Delivery

In order to provide additional protection for email communication in transit and keep electronic communications from prying eyes, companies often apply encryption methodologies to their electronic communications.

Encrypted email refers to the process of encoding email messages in such a way that eavesdroppers or hackers cannot read it, but that authorized parties can.

Two Popular Options for Encrypting Email

Ambs Call Center supports both TLS and Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) encryption methods.

Using TLS encryption

Transport Layer Security transcription (TLS) protocol keeps prying eyes away from your emails while they are in transit. TLS is a protocol that encrypts and delivers mail securely for inbound and outbound email.

It helps prevent eavesdropping between email servers. It's worth noting that your email messages are encrypted only if the sender and receiver both use email providers that support Transport Layer Security.

Not all email providers uses TLS. Not sure if your mail server has TLS enabled? Use this online tool to test your email address.

Using S/MIME secure email

S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a widely accepted method for sending secure email messages.  It allows you to encrypt emails and digitally sign them. It gives the recipient the piece of mind that the message they receive in their in box is the exact message that started with the sender.

It also ensures that the person receiving the email knows that it really did come from the person in the 'From:' field.

S/MIME provides for cryptographic security services such as authentication, message integrity, and digital signatures.

Fax

Information and messages containing PHI can be faxed immediately as they are received or sent as a batch at the days and times that are most convenient for you.

Secure Web Portal

Many medical answering services offer real-time access to call records and information via a secure web portal.

You can mark messages as read, forward via email, and sort and filter calls as you see fit. Most web portal are mobile-optimized for smartphones and tablets.

download medical answering service checklist

About Aaron Boatin

Aaron Boatin is President of Ambs Call Center, a virtual receptionist and telephone answering service provider. His passion is helping clients' businesses succeed. Melding high tech with high touch to provide the best customer service experience for clients is his core focus.

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