Case Management

Sneak peek: Exploit benefits of text messaging while preventing privacy breaches

Case Management Weekly, November 28, 2012

It's fast, it's convenient, and it's on the rise.

A recent health information technology study by the Case Management Society of America, the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review, and TCS Healthcare Technologies found that more case managers are using text messaging as a tool than ever before, says Pat Stricker, RN, M.Ed., senior vice president of TCS Healthcare Technologies in Auburn, Calif. The number of case managers texting patients doubled between the surveys conducted in 2010 and 2012, and based on the responses, Stricker says that number will likely double again by 2014.

Texting can be a quick and easy way to ­communicate, but it can also bring risks with respect to HIPAA compliance, says Frank Ruelas, MBA, principal of HIPAA Boot Camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. In some ways, texting is still the Wild West of communications, says Ruelas. Policies are just starting to catch up with practices.

Some organizations have tried to reduce the risk with outright texting bans. However, a ban is unlikely to work ­because texting is already so ingrained and popular, Ruelas says. "If you're not going to allow texting at your ­organization, you're already underwater holding your breath. People are not going to comply," he says.

Note that texting can have HIPAA advantages as well as risks, says Ruelas. "It's private. No one can hear what I'm texting you," he says. "Screens are so small it's hard for someone to look over your shoulder and read what you're writing." With this in mind, the goal should be to allow case managers to take advantage of this communication tool—but to implement safeguards to ensure that it is used safely and effectively.

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from an article in the November Case Management Monthly published by HCPro, Inc.

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