Are They Robust Enough to Protect Patients?
Healthcare organizations have long been tasked with safeguarding their patient’s personal information. New reports indicate that there may be holes in security. Just like anyone else, physicians use electronic communication as a convenience in professional discussions. Texts between providers may be used to clarify diagnoses, check on lab reports, or convey information when referring a patient. The problem is, providers aren’t all using secured texting networks, opening the door for hackers and medical data thieves.
Growing Trends in Medical Texting
Recent research at a children’s hospital discovered that 60 percent of physicians receive or send work-related texts. In some cases, those texts are viewed as “off the record” communication, but since medical conversations aren’t recorded in electronic medical records, there could be dangers to patient care.
Poor Doctors Texts Info Security Puts Data at Risk
Botched communications and poor records are a small risk compared to the chance that doctors’ texts could put your personal health information on the market. Experts recommend that healthcare providers use encryption at all levels of communication and data storage and implement procedures for tracking whether messages are delivered. Since mobile texting devices can be misplaced or stolen, providers should have the option to wipe the device of all data remotely. And, messages should only remain active for up to 30 days at a time.
Still, even with data security measures in place, texting could remain a weak point in patient confidentiality. For example, during a recent divorce case, a judge found a cell phone provider guilty of inappropriately releasing 50,000 texts after being subpoenaed. The texts, which included protected information between a woman and her physicians, was released despite the fact that the woman had a protective order in place.
If you are concerned with security weaknesses around texting, speak with your healthcare providers about how they use communication devices and what they do to prevent data breaches. And, don’t forget about shredding old paperwork from medical procedures and documents.