A professional holds his phone and is texting with a patient.

Consider These Tips Before Texting Patients

Texting patients requires a completely different set of etiquette and tools than personal text messaging.

As a society, we text a lot - some stats show the average person picks up their phone up to 96 times per day. It's easy to see why text messaging has become more common as a tool for communicating with patients. 

But just because we text often on a personal level doesn't mean we know texting etiquette and best practices on a professional level - especially as a healthcare professional. When texting patients, there are certain risks you must be aware of, such as violating HIPAA. The same considerations should be taken when texting with staff -for example, texting should not be used for sending any medical orders. Before implementing texting as a form of patient communication in your practice, consider these tips and recommendations.

Consent from Patients

Written consent is a must - patients must give consent that allows your practice to text them. The ability to opt out of every message they receive is also a requirement. 

Contact Your Attorney

As with any form of communication, HIPAA compliance is absolutely required. Because texting patients is a complicated process, we recommend you contact your attorney to help establish procedures that are compliant.

HIPAA-Compliant Services are Useful

Automated services that are compliant with HIPAA and PHI requirements are becoming common in all forms of healthcare. Research and consider using one of these HIPAA-compliant text messaging platforms to maintain professionalism and remain impersonal.

PHI Must Be Protected

According to the HIPAA Journal, “Controls must be put in place to ensure ePHI cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals. Protecting ePHI requires access controls to be in place and data must be encrypted at rest and in transit.” Standard SMS text messages do not have the right controls to guarantee PHI security, which is why a HIPAA-compliant service is useful.

More Best Practices

Should you decide to manually text instead of using a compliant platform, be aware of these best practices as outlined by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) – in addition to not violating HIPAA requirements or revealing PHI.

  • Obtain written consent to text.
  • Always be professional.
  • Do not use abbreviations.
  • Be concise. Messages over 160 characters will split into two messages.
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