Secure-Messaging: How to Protect Your Patients’ Data

We recently introduced our latest product, Secure Chat. As messaging has quickly become the preferred method of communication, the healthcare industry has begun to make a shift in how physicians and medical practices are now communicating with their patients.

Communicating with patients via text messaging and other messaging platforms, is beneficial for everyone. Patients get direct access to their primary healthcare team when it’s most convenient to them, and medical teams spend less time fielding phone calls and leaving voicemails. While there’s a lot of benefit to be found in messaging, there’s also a lot of concern regarding security.

Cyber attacks in healthcare have continued to increase over the past two years. According to the National Cybersecurity Institute, “healthcare breaches surpassed 112 million records” in 2015. And with 87 percent of doctors using a smartphone at work to support their workflows, one significant area of concern for data leaks is unsecure text messaging, or SMS text messaging. For all of these reasons, implementing a secure messaging platform in your practice is becoming increasingly more important. Once you do, though, there are several steps you should take in order to make the security of your patient data and patient communication a priority.

 

Make Employee & Patient Education a Priority

Spend the time up-front training your staff and physicians on how to use the secure messaging platform appropriately to ensure security. Additionally, spend an equal amount of time educating your patients.

Many practices skip over this step or move through it too quickly. However, spending this time up-front to ensure that your physicians know how to use the system in the most security-conscious way will save you from spending even more time later on trying to fix things after a security breach.

It’s also important to provide continuing education every few months. As this article notes, “most companies train once, if at all, and may never revisit the information. By comparison, most places have fire drills regularly and frequently.” We should do the same when it comes to proactively protecting our data. When educating patients and physicians, also make sure that the material is simple and easy-to-understand. The time you spend educating them is irrelevant if they aren’t able to easily process and implement what they’re learning.

 

Do Your Research And Find the Most Secure Option

Research, research, research. Get to know your options for secure-messaging and what those companies are doing on their end to protect your data. Protecting your patients’ data starts with being proactive when selecting a secure-messaging provider and setting up your system.

At Luma Health, we know how important it is to keep your data safe and secure. So, we’ve partnered with the industry experts at Aptible to ensure your data is protected on our secure-messaging platform. While we understand security, our specialty is developing the best, most convenient products to save both you and your patients time. We felt that this issue was vital enough to partner with Aptible, whose main focus and speciality is keeping data secure. They help us create the technology infrastructure and backbone for our messaging service. So, you can ensure when using our secure chat product that your data is safe.

 

Conduct a Risk Assessment

It’s important to find the loopholes in your system before a potential data breach occurs. Conducting a risk assessment should be a prioritized step in launching a secure-messaging platform in your practice. This allows you to find potential places where an information breach is possible in order to fix it before an information breach actually occurs. The process of conducting a risk assessment will also help you find places where you can improve your policy.

For example, let’s say that you have a computer at your front desk that your staff logs into. During a risk assessment, you may find that after logging in, they walk away for long periods of time. This allows a random person to potentially look at your patient records. So, after conducting the risk assessment, you now have the opportunity to figure out how to prevent this from happening in the future.

At Luma, we conduct our own risk assessments on our end with the help of our technology partner, Aptible. In addition, we minimize the risk for our clients by adding safety features, such as auto-logoff, audit trails on the backend to access in the setting of a breach, and strict authentication for our employees, on our end, when accessing customer accounts.

 

Be Proactive

Most importantly, be proactive with the security of your practice’s data. This starts with implementing a secure-messaging platform for your physicians and patients to communicate through. It continues with regular risk assessments and security training for both doctors and patients.

If you’d like to find out more about our secure messaging product, contact us today to set up a free demo.

 

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.

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