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From Pagers To Text Messages: Healthcare's Next Security Challenge

Survey of hospital IT professionals shows texting to replace paging in next three years

Paging all doctors: You'll be checking text messages rather than your pages within the next three years, a new study finds.

More than 70 percent of IT decision-makers in hospitals in North America say they expect secure text messaging to replace paging in the next three years, as smartphones become more of a tool in the hospital environment. Close to half of the respondents say they expect texting to be used for communicating with patients in the next 12 months, and 65 percent say that will be the case within three years.

"Our 2012 survey indicates that most hospital IT leaders believe text messaging has tremendous potential to impact patient care, extending well beyond care team communications," says Ed Gaudet, chief marketing officer at Imprivata. "Smartphones have the ability to transform healthcare by driving efficiencies in an industry that is undergoing dramatic change in automation. Our research shows that secure text messaging represents a viable option today for meeting the unique healthcare communication needs and enabling more efficient ways to collaborate between physicians, nurses, and patients."

But with the convenience comes potential security trade-offs. More than 95 percent of the hospital IT pros say they are worried about HIPAA compliance and messaging patient information, with 63.9 percent saying they are "very concerned" and 31.5 percent "somewhat concerned."

More than 70 percent say they already have policies that prohibit patient health information from being transmitted via text.

HIPAA has many hospitals already considering secure text-messaging options. Nearly 42 percent say compliance with HIPAA is the top reason for this, and 30.3 percent say secure messaging initiatives to replace paging is mainly for boosting communications among their healthcare workers.

Only about 20 percent of the 114 hospital IT decision-makers surveyed say they are currently using secure text messaging. Interestingly, physicians for the most part are not requesting it: Nearly 65 percent say their doctors aren't asking for this feature. Less than 24 percent say their nurses are asking for secure texting.

A copy of the full "2012 Text Messaging in Healthcare Survey" report is available here for download (PDF).

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2013 | 6:47:34 PM
re: From Pagers To Text Messages: Healthcare's Next Security Challenge

I agree that you have to be very carefull when using text messaging in a healthcare environment, and the survey results show that this really is a big concern amoung healthcare IT. For sure standard SMS text messaging is not HIPAA compliant, since multiple copies of the messages remain on verious servers. We are a healthcare facility, and we looked at several HIPAA compliant text messagin option including large MDM syste, like Centrify and we looked at several app based solutions like Hipomsg and found that Tigertext Pro was the most secure and cost effective app out there. Since it is on it's own network, and the messages auto-delete, they seem to be the only true HIPAA compliant app that we looked at. They now have about 300 healthcare facilities using them now which make them the largest as well, and they also have HIPAA comnpliant video sharing and Dropbox file sharing.
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