The Challenges of Securing Smartphone Communications
HIPAA guidelines are uniform standards put in place to ensure confidentiality and secure handling of patient information. All healthcare institutions are subject to these guidelines and are responsible for complying with them to safeguard healthcare information, but in a world where smartphones and other devices capable of instant messaging are the primary source of communication, compliance with the HIPAA guidelines can be challenging.
Healthcare personnel work in a fast paced environment where every second counts towards providing patients with care that is vital to their quality of life. Colleagues in this industry have to be able to relay information to one another quickly and constantly, and most of the time the information being shared pertains to the health, healthcare, and treatment of their patients. It stands to reason that their preferred method of communication would be through instant messaging services via email or text, however these services though convenient, are nearly impossible to use securely and in compliance with HIPAA guidelines. In this case HIPPA compliant texting will be safer method to protect confidential information.
The sheer margin for human error is a huge part of why usual messaging services – instant, text, or email – are not capable of meeting the guidelines for security set out by HIPAA. Information that is confidential and classified could easily be sent to the wrong recipient and then forwarded to even more unauthorized parties. Carelessness could very easily lead to professional information being shared with or discovered by people in the personal lives of healthcare professionals, creating a security breach and making it easy for classified information to be seen and shared by those who have no right to see it. Simply laying a device down out in the open where the eyes of bystanders could glimpse notifications on its screen could lead to private patient healthcare information being compromised.
Another limitation on the security of smartphone communications is the fact that keeping the messages sent between colleagues from being intercepted in transit or even hacked after they’ve been delivered is nearly impossible on standard messaging services. At this time encryption and login receipt features are not available for most well known messaging services, which means organizations would need to employ a third party messaging service to encrypt messages and keep them from being stored on service provider servers. Without measures in place to safeguard patient information and ensure that only specific people can view messages that contain healthcare information ordinary messaging services alone cannot guarantee the security of messages sent on their systems and so do not meet the guidelines for HIPAA compliance. With no such ability to secure messages thoroughly on the horizon, standard smartphone communications -although convenient, efficient, and preferred by healthcare professionals – are not feasible if HIPAA guidelines are to be met.