Navigating the Waters of PHI Sharing Via Phone and Text

Posted by Tonni Islam
Man Pointing At A Cell Phone

In the healthcare industry, protecting Protected Health Information (PHI) is paramount. PHI encompasses a wide range of data, including medical histories, laboratory test results, insurance information, and other personal health information that could identify an individual. Given the sensitivity of this information, the question of whether an organization can share PHI over the phone or text is a topic of much debate.

The Dual Edges of Convenience and Risk

The Case for Phone and Text Communication

In the fast-paced world of healthcare, the ability to communicate quickly and effectively can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Organizationscan share PHI over the phone to facilitate immediate decision-making and patient care coordination. Similarly, sharing PHI over text offers healthcare providers the flexibility to transmit urgent information swiftly, ensuring timely care and consultation.

However, convenience doesn’t come without its risks. Both texting and voice calls introduce potential vulnerabilities, such as the lack of encryption, audit controls, and access restrictions. These gaps pose significant security risks, potentially exposing sensitive information to unauthorized parties.

Voice Calls

While voice calls are generally considered HIPAA compliant under the conduit exception, this doesn’t mean they’re without their challenges. The conduit exception is narrow, mainly covering entities that merely transmit information without storing it. Nevertheless, if a voicemail system stores ePHI or calls are recorded, entering into a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with the service provider becomes necessary to ensure compliance.

Bridging the Security Gap

Despite the inherent risks, some measures can significantly mitigate the dangers of sharing PHI through these methods. For instance, implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) can add an extra layer of security, particularly for text messaging. For organizations embracing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, these security measures are doubly crucial.

Moreover, HIPAA compliance software and text messaging applications have emerged as a viable solution, allowing the secure transmission of PHI within an encrypted, protected environment. These apps often extend beyond simple text messages, supporting voice calls, video calls, and the secure sharing of files and images. They ensure that PHI can be communicated safely, adhering strictly to HIPAA regulations.

Safeguarding the Heart of Healthcare

While the digital age offers innovative ways to share and communicate PHI, the responsibility of protecting this sensitive information cannot be overlooked. Employing the right strategies and technologies can help navigate the complexities of PHI sharing, ensuring that patient information remains secure and confidential.

For those seeking to enhance their organization’s compliance posture and secure the transmission of PHI, contact Comply Assistant. Our healthcare compliance consulting team is dedicated to providing the expertise and tools necessary to safeguard the integrity of patient health information in the digital era.

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