Health Information Management

Ask the expert: Is it appropriate to use text messaging on cellular phones to relay patient data between caregivers (e.g., nurse to physician)?

HIM-HIPAA Insider, October 9, 2007

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A: No. Unless the sending and receiving phones have encryption capabilities, the data are open to interception, corruption, and inappropriate disclosure. All communication of protected health information (PHI), whether electronic or nonelectronic, must be secure while in transit and at both the sending and receiving ends. This means you can send PHI via e-mail, over a wireless network, etc., as long as the connection is secure. At the very least, you must encrypt PHI transmitted over an open network, such as the Internet or nonsecure wireless connection. This also holds true with respect to text messaging with cellular phones.

Editor's note: This Q&A was adapted from the October 2007 issue of Briefings on HIPAA. For more information, visit

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