Texting a preferred data sharing tool among residents, despite security concerns

While a majority of physician residents responding to a recent survey said they prefer texting to other hospital communication channels, citing ease of use and efficiency gains, more than two-thirds said they view paging systems as a more secure data sharing approach, reports a new paper published at the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The study, which polled internal medicine residents at two academic medical centers--the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania--revealed that roughly 72 percent of 131 respondents viewed texting as the optimum communication method; 82.5 percent of respondents, however, said they consider paging systems as the most secure. Just 20.6 percent said they view digital messaging as a secure communication.

Despite such concerns, however, most residents reported sharing patient data via texts, with 70.9 percent receiving identifier data, 81.7 percent receiving patient initials, and 50.4 percent receiving a patient's medical record number through text.

"For providers, it is possible the benefits of improved in-hospital communication with SMS text messaging and the presumed improvement in the coordination and delivery of patient care outweigh security concerns they may have," said corresponding author Micah T. Prochaska, M.D., of the University of Chicago. "The tension between the security and convenience of SMS text messaging may represent an educational opportunity to ensure the compliance of mobile technology in the health care setting."

Texting continues to grow as a favored tool for helping patients manage chronic conditions, improving communication between caregivers and boosting patient care evaluation and condition monitoring. That's despite the fact it's discouraged by the Joint Commission for Healthcare Communication, given concerns regarding compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and securing confidential data on mobile devices.

"One possible explanation for these results is that residents are faced with balancing the tradeoff between the presumed benefits of efficient and easier-to-use modes of in-hospital communication versus their belief about the security risk posed by communicating protected health information through the different available modes of communication," Prochaska said.

For more information:
- read the JMIR paper