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Healthcare And Instant Messaging: Is Your Sensitive Medical Data Safe?

Convenience at our fingertips!


That's what the past decade has been all about.


Need hot food? Delivered to your doorstep.

Want a ride? Booked in minutes.

A how-to tutorial? Hope onto Youtube immediately.


Similarly, want to text someone? Instant messaging apps are here for you.


Everyone uses it and the healthcare industry is no exception.


However, it's not limited to casual conversations.


And we're going to discuss the use cases and their implications.

๐Ÿ‘‰ How is instant messaging being used in healthcare?


๐Ÿ‘‰ Are there any rules against this practice?


๐Ÿ‘‰ What are the consequences of using it?

๐Ÿ‘‰ What's the future of communication for the healthcare industry?

Let's answer these critical questions one at a time!

For starters, let's check out what exactly is instant messaging used for.


How is instant messaging being used in healthcare?

data safe

Let's jump straight to its use cases.


Firstly, it's incredibly convenient to communicate and coordinate patient care.


And it helps with discussing treatments and sharing test results.


Apart from that, it's also convenient to seek input from other specialists.


Sharing images might assist with quick diagnosis, remotely.


Or can be simply used to receive feedback or second opinions.


But it's not limited to healthcare professionals.


Even patients can benefit from it.


They could share their vitals and other symptoms.


Which can effectively help to monitor a patient remotely.



This technology goes from being convenient to life-saving too!


Time is of the essence in healthcare.


Every second could be a matter of life and death.


In situations, quick diagnosis and responses could be critical.


And these real-time decisions and communication could possibly save a person.



All we hear right now is how necessary this is.


But there is a flip side to it.


This gets us to the rules and guidelines for such instant messaging apps.



Are there any rules against this practice?

data safe medical record

Yes, yes there are!


Let's highlight the federal law that was enacted in 1996 in the USA.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.


It's applicable to all the entities in the healthcare system.


For fine print enthusiasts, you can read more about it HERE.


We'll give you a quick overview of the same.



The HIPAA privacy rule is focused on patient confidentiality.


It's about the privacy of protected healthcare information.


It also provides individuals control over it and the authorization for its usage.


Meanwhile, the HIPAA security rule focuses on security measures.


And data transmission in electronic form.


The latter is what we're focused on for our purposes.


As per this, the distribution of patient data needs to be over a secured channel.


And it needs to meet all the regulatory requirements.


However, most widely used apps like WhatsApp don't meet the criteria (WHY?).


Meanwhile, St Georgeโ€™s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust found 87% use smartphone applications to discuss patient data.


Out of them, 56% were not sure if the information was secure. (SOURCE)


And that's alarming.


But, let's find out the damage that it can do...



What are the consequences of using it?


We've read through the effective utilization of instant messaging.


So let's discuss the flip side of such applications -


1) Data privacy and security

Apps like WhatsApp were designed for consumer messaging.


They don't have the security or privacy to handle sensitive healthcare information.


Data breaches or unauthorized access may occur.


And this would violate the confidentiality of patient data.


2) NO Audit Mechanism

Audits are absolutely critical in the healthcare industry.


Again, these apps don't provide any audit trail documentation.


And it's a crucial factor for legal and quality assurance purposes.


It's challenging to even track one conversation.


Let alone millions of records of patients across several devices.


3) Compliance Issues

We already briefly discussed HIPAA.


But it's not only the USA that has such laws...


Several other countries have regulations for protecting healthcare data.


And using unregulated apps will most likely violate compliance.



4) Not Reliable

Healthcare needs to be available 24*7.


What if the app servers have a downtime?


Or even technical glitches that the app might face.


Critical healthcare communications may get interrupted


And that could turn out to be catastrophic.


5) Misinterpretating Patient Information

Misinterpretations have no place in healthcare.


But using such communication may result in fragmented information.


Let's say sharing an image without the prior history of the patient.


It may compromise the quality of patient treatment.


And in certain cases, could lead to deteriorating their health due to inadequate actions.



Being aware of the factors is the first step, but it's not enough.


"Usage of unsecured communications in healthcare is a ticking time bomb for privacy of patient data."

It's our responsibility to diffuse this time bomb.


And discuss how the communication should take place.

What's the future of communication for the healthcare industry?


The future is not far-off this time around.


It's already here.


There are platforms specifically made for healthcare communication.


They fulfill all the required demands, including -

  • Data Security

  • Data Privacy

  • Secure and Encrypted Communication

  • Compliance with Healthcare Regulations

  • Reliability

And most importantly, convenience.


All of it is incorporated with instant messaging.


It can be optimized as per the needs of that healthcare organization.


They have been tried, tested and widely deployed too.



Where do we find such a platform? Look no further!


CommuniGate SPEC is our ultimate communication platform.


It brings regulatory compliance and innovation together.


Additionally, it's hosted on a private cloud.


Creating the secure messaging and high-security environment needed.


You can read more about it and our other products HERE.


Now that we know such platforms exist...



What's the issue we're facing? Adaptability and awareness.


We are accustomed to messaging applications like WhatsApp.


And adapting to a new application isn't first nature.


However, there should be awareness sessions around data privacy.


And how using unregulated instant messaging apps can be dangerous.


Also having stricter protocols on an individual level in the healthcare industry would be helpful.


Anyone not following it should have disciplinary action taken against them.


Remember, the confidentiality of patients' data is everyone's responsibility!


"Data privacy of a patient is a fundamental right that everyone should strive towards protecting."

------------------------------------------------------

Instant messaging has become irreplaceable in our lives.


However, be aware of the downsides of unsecured communication.


So, it's critical to utilize the technology made for that purpose.


This would ensure the patients are protected, both physically and digitally.


For all your cybersecurity protections, you can rely on MailSPEC!


Until next time, stay SPECtacular!

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