As messaging app security improves, use in healthcare grows

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Messaging app services could be a game-changer for physicians, especially ones that offer strong security and data privacy features.

One such service is WhatsApp, which recently announced it has adopted end-to-end encryption and which, according to a Fortune report, now has nearly nine of 10 Brazil physicians using the messaging service.

That new encryption layer bodes well for the technology’s future as a healthcare tool and for protecting the privacy of its user base, Katie Kenney, a health data privacy attorney with Polsinelli, told Fortune. “It’s about one of the best safeguards you can have in place,” she said.

While WhatsApp's U.S. adoption rate is nowhere near as high as in Brazil, Fortune cites a survey noting a 4 percent usage rate among American doctors, it is gaining attention. The platform is being used by doctors in Syria to reach U.S. experts for care advice and humanitarian aid, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Such services, for both remote care needs and in-hospital environments, are in big demand, Sutter Health Chief Information Officer Sameer Badlani said in the Fortune article.

“It is one of the disruptive technologies that allows us to think of access to care in a new paradigm,” he said.

Yet not everyone is convinced such services will storm the healthcare environment in the near future, notes Fortune. There are still questions regarding how such messaging data is protected in relation to a patient’s electronic health record, but federal officials are developing guidance to help answer such questions.