The Role of Text Messaging in Healthcare

Dear House Rules,

When I think of texting, I think of my teenagers bent over their smartphones, oblivious to everything but their friends. What I don’t think of is healthcare. Yet I’ve been hearing that secure text messaging is being used increasingly in hospitals – and may even improve results among outpatients. Has that been verified? What about the HIPAA and privacy concerns?

 

Signed,

R U sure hospital texting is that gr8 an idea?

Dear Dubious:

Healthcare-specific messaging apps are growing in popularity, perhaps because they are easy to learn and allow users to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security and privacy rules relating to the secure communication of protected health information (PHI). Apps for secure healthcare texting incorporate a number of safeguards that prevent breaches of PHI. A secure healthcare messaging app does more than just protect PHI in transit, however.1

A healthcare messaging app is a multi-platform software application that works like many other short message services (SMSs). Users can send text messages, upload images and hold multi-person conversations. Clinicians can send out group texts and get near-instant feedback on a patient’s lab work, radiographs, or other relevant information. Where apps for secure healthcare texting differ from other popular messaging services is that copies of messages aren’t kept on routing servers and can’t be intercepted on public Wi-Fi. This is because encrypted PHI is encapsulated within a unique communication channel that only authorized users can access once they have verified their ID with a username and password.1 That many sound like a lot of technical jargon, but if it was your doctor discussing the test results of your biopsy, you’d want the conversation to be secure!

Text messaging isn’t just for doctors, though. Patients can benefit from it – and that’s where the marketing opportunity is, along with the clinical opportunity. In fact, a study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association clearly showed that an automated mobile health (mHealth) intervention using text messages and Smartphone tracking apps can prove to be an effective strategy for increasing patients’ physical activity levels.2 The benefits of boosting activity levels can’t be underestimated. However, around 50% of adults are failing to reach the recommended daily exercise targets, despite more programs than ever designed to get the nation more active. In fact, activity levels have not increased substantially since they were assessed as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted between 1988 and 1994.2

According to the American Heart Association, there is a critical need for research into new, effective strategies that can be used to promote increasing daily activity levels. With this in mind, Seth S. Martin, MD, MHS et al, conducted a study at an ambulatory cardiology center in Baltimore to determine whether the use of activity trackers and text message reminders could be used to improving exercise and fitness levels of cardiology patients.2

The study showed that with motivational and informative text message reminders, on average patients walked an additional 2,500 steps each day compared to individuals who did not receive text messages.2

Provided you stay within HIPAA guidelines, text messaging about the benefit of your product, device, or service in conjunction with these healthy reminders may be a great way to reach your target audience. At Xavier Creative House, we can help you partner with these influencers to bring your brand messaging directly to the patients who will be most interested in learning about it. Contact us today. (Our number is 215.583.2323 if you want to send us a text!)

References:1. http://www.hipaajournal.com/healthcare-messaging-app/. Accessed May 14, 2017. 2. http://www.hipaajournal.com/benefits-of-healthcare-text-messaging-highlighted-by-new-study-8250/. Accessed May 15, 2017.

 

 

Sincerely,
House Rules

Sunny Beth White

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Contact Sunny Beth White, Founder & CEO
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