HIPAA Secure Texting

9 Most Requested Secure Messaging App Features & Functions

September 15, 2015 | Adam Turinas

On the surface secure texting apps may appear to be same but in reality there are many features and functions that make some more invaluable than others for healthcare organizations. We interviewed healthcare IT executives and CIOs to determine what drove the most ROI for their organization. The nine capabilities covered below played a key role in driving user satisfaction and ensuring mass adoption of those healthcare organizations’ secure texting apps.


HIPAA Compliance Measures

With the many data breaches that have erupted throughout 2015, it’s no surprise that protecting patient health information (PHI) was a foremost concern for health IT leaders. Secure texting apps that excel in this area send messages with minimum 256-bit encryption, encrypt messages/data at rest and on the server, require secure login and two-factor user authentication, allow system admin to remotely wipe a user’s app or revoke systems access, and more.

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User Management & Administrative System Features

Healthcare IT teams must manage more devices, apps and software solutions than ever before. It’s become imperative that any new technologies be simple to roll out and manage. Secure texting apps that excel in this regard are available on iOS, Android and web-based desktop platforms, integrate with the LDAP and Active Directory, enable admin to send broadcast messages to users, and more.

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Notifications Features

Flexibility is a necessary requirement of secure texting apps’ notifications function, except when it comes to security. It’s worth restating that notification alerts should never include patient health information. Healthcare focused secure texting apps—whether they’re meant for clinicians, patients or caregivers—should integrate with clinical data systems.

Having a “Do Not Disturb” push notification setting is also critical. Message delivery/read notifications are equally as important when it comes to preventing over-communication from arising.

Message delivery notifications enable users to interpret whether the person they are trying to reach is unavailable. Message read notifications encourage users to respond with greater urgency after receiving a secure text message.

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Group Management Features

Group communication features are absolutely critical for secure texting apps that address care coordination. Physicians, clinicians and other user groups should have the ability to create private groups they can communicate with via secure text messaging. This will be particularly useful for nurses who must coordinate care with PCPs, specialists, and many others.  User directory management and mass broadcast messaging should also be available for administrators to deliver administrative messaging or even security alerts.

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Clinical Workflow Management Capabilities

One of the primary reasons healthcare organizations invest in secure texting apps is to enable clinicians to achieve greater workflow efficiency. Secure texting apps that integrate with clinical systems and on call lists, have consult delivery and referral request features, and support user management most effectively support workflow management improvements. All of these functions should be very easy to follow and complete in a few clicks, otherwise physician adoption will be threatened.

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Voice Features

The most advanced secure texting applications support multiple communication channels. There are situations where it may actually be easier for users to speak rather than text. A physician may choose to explain her/his instructions to a PA or answer the questions of a clinical care team member via phone or VOIP to avoid typing and sending a very lengthy text. In situations such as these, users should be able to place calls without leaving the secure environment of the app. Ease of use again will be extremely important to ensure app users don’t resort to using their smartphone’s native (and unsecure) calling system.

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UX Design

User experience is a critical element of healthcare technology that until recently has been largely overlooked. Many HIT teams have witnessed firsthand how influential the UI of a mobile or web app can be on user adoption and engagement trends. Without the touch of a UX designer, even the most technologically advanced secure texting app will fail at ensuring clinicians and healthcare staff are communicating in compliance with HIPAA regulation. Secure texting apps must have intuitive designs that surpass that of native iPhone and Android apps, otherwise users may be more inclined to send an iMessage or resort to other unsecure communication apps.

For physicians and clinicians who must carefully balance their attention between their secure texting app and patients, readability and speed of process will be important. The fonts used in the secure texting app should be large enough for users to quickly read and absorb. They should also be able to complete any function from the dashboard in only a few clicks. These principles also apply to patient engagement apps considering aging baby boomers will become the dominant class of users.

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Technical Support

Many health systems do not have the resources or expertise to develop secure text equipped mobile apps in house, and thus turn to third party vendors. Just as healthcare organizations serve patients 24/7, these vendors must also have tech support teams that are accessible no matter the time of day or national holiday even. It’s strongly encouraged that healthcare buyers speak to a vendor’s current customer base and specifically inquire about the vendor support team’s speed of response.

Healthcare organizations investing in secure texting apps cannot afford to have low app usage rates, as they will still be at risk of facing a HIPAA violation. That’s why user training is a critical part of the pre-launch process for secure texting apps. Healthcare buyers should inquire about the caliber of training a secure texting app vendor offers. Post-launch, secure texting app vendors should also have a system in place for collecting and applying user feedback into their features upgrades.

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Highly Configurable

Secure texting applications must evolve with the needs of their users, otherwise clinicians and healthcare staff could become more inclined to revert to using unsecure communication channels. Apps that are developed on flexible systems that enable integration with a multitude of systems, EHR included, and apps—connecting apps for clinicians and patients, for instance—will maximize utility for stakeholders spanning the healthcare organization. Secure texting app vendors should have the ability to transform the recommendations of app users, healthcare administrators or leadership into new apps that serve a continuously expanding population.

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Secure texting apps with the features, system capabilities and functionality covered above can potentially generate millions in savings for healthcare organizations by improving care coordination, engaging patients in the care process, extending care delivery into the home and much more. This checklist outlines 60 different features, all connected to the 9 capabilities addressed above, that healthcare IT executives can evaluate secure texting app vendors against.


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