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How Secure Messaging Helps Pharmacies Maintain HIPAA Compliance

Last updated Feb 19, 2021 | Pharmacy Technology

As healthcare messaging evolves, pharmacists must keep patient privacy and protection top-of-mind. With so many platforms to choose from, finding a balance between security and convenience can be a complicated task. HIPAA-compliant secure messaging helps pharmacists protect private information and connect with patients on a user-friendly, convenient platform.

HIPAA ensures that protected health information (PHI) is gathered, analyzed, and stored safely. Healthcare messaging requires high levels of security to be considered HIPAA-compliant, a standard that is no longer possible for many channels.

Here’s a quick overview of common healthcare messaging technologies used today and how they maintain compliance.

Early Healthcare Messaging: Pagers

Pagers or “beepers” have played a major role in healthcare communication. One of the first consumer-friendly digital devices, they gained traction in the 1980s, being portable with a wide signal range.

One-way pagers are still used in hospitals and healthcare systems in an internal capacity. Some companies also still offer 2-way pager models, like the BlackBerry, which can send and receive texts and emails. But concerns about pagers’ cost and ability to maintain compliance has affected their widespread use outside of healthcare networks.

Moving Messaging Online With Email

The next shift in healthcare messaging moved healthcare communication online. Email offers an easy solution for external communication, opening up the platform to address patients’ questions and concerns and help them manage their own conditions.

Unlike pagers, email healthcare messaging is much more likely to be used by pharmacies and healthcare facilities not connected to a larger internal network. Issues like hacking, phishing, and unsecured networks have complicated information security, but it is entirely possible to make email HIPAA-compliant.

HIPAA-Compliant Secure Messaging Today

Recent changes to HIPAA laws have largely outlawed the use of email and texting (SMS) for healthcare messaging, due to the concern that PHI would be compromised. These led to the recent trend of HIPAA secure messaging, which combines the convenience of mobile with a secure private communications network.

To be considered HIPAA-compliant, the messaging platform must be based on a secured platform and Wi-Fi network that encrypts PHI. Patients should not be able to access messages without giving identifying information and must also give their consent for any PHI to be shared by healthcare professionals. By putting access controls in place and requiring ID authentication, healthcare facilities can avoid compliance violations and hefty fines.

Other features of secure messaging may include:

  • Automatic logoffs to prevent unauthorized access
  • Remote deletion of PHI if device is lost or stolen
  • Support of image exchange for easy communication

Secure messaging is particularly suited to pharmacies, giving them the ability to reach out to patients directly on their phones and encouraging a dialogue between pharmacists and patients. Pharmacies can support adherence and build relationships with their patients while maintaining industry standards of compliance.

Secure 2-Way Messaging with Digital Pharmacist

At Digital Pharmacist, our goal is to help pharmacies connect with their patients and promote adherence. We offer a HIPAA-compliant 2-way messaging solution to simplify communication and provide an extra point of contact for patient care.

Our platform helps pharmacies reduce manual errors, increase patient satisfaction, and ensure compliance. We are proud to support over 700 pharmacies and thousands of patients nationwide with secure 2-way messaging.

To learn more about our messaging solution, contact us about a demo today.

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