Increased med staff texting: More security oversight needed

Pediatric doctors and medical staffers are embracing texting while at work, and the increasing practice means organizations must ensure data and messaging activity is properly secured given federal mandates and regulatory compliance rules, according to a new study.

The research, from the University of Kansas School of Medicine, focused on evaluating if text was being used as a communications tool among pediatric medical staff, as well as gaining insight on potential connections between messaging and the users' gender and years of practice.

"Physicians were using text messaging as a means of brief, work-related communication," the study's authors said. "Concerns arose regarding transfer of PHI [patient healthcare information] using unsecured systems and work–life balance. Although verbal communication is still the most frequent form of communication, pediatric hospitalists appear open to using text messaging for brief communication, and many even prefer it."

The findings come at a time when mobile healthcare tools and devices are becoming much more commonplace and are more embraced by medical professionals and patients. Text technology, in particular, is being used to help moms-to-be in rural areas, diabetic teens needing support and guidance and military personnel in physical and mental rehabilitation.             

Growing adoption on the part of providers, according to the report's authors, is due to the convenience text messaging provides. One caveat: Security and adherence to HIPAA requirements.

"Without proper safeguards in place, there is a concern of violating HIPAA, and few hospital systems seem to have secure networks and encryption programs in place," the authors said.

For more information:
- read the study (.pdf)