HIPAA compliance and SMS texting: What you need to know

41% of patients are likely to switch providers if their current provider doesn’t offer text messaging.
A clipboard, medicines, and steth indicating HIPAA compliant messaging and SMS texting

Since the inception of smartphones, texting has become a quick and easy way for people to communicate.

Much of the population, including digital natives like Millennials and Gen Z, prefer texting over other communication platforms. Texting has emerged as the preferred way for people to receive information. 80% of internet users have used their phones to look up health information.

Why should you care about healthcare SMS?

Our patient communication preferences survey of 2023 found that 41% of patients are likely to switch providers if their current provider doesn’t offer text messaging. And over 56% of respondents reported being comfortable with sharing their Protected Health Information (PHI) over text/SMS.

While there is no one specific way that patients prefer to communicate with their provider, text messaging emerged as the mean most preferred channel for use cases that convey bite-sized information.

Healthcare providers and hospitals can use SMS for:

  • Appointment reminders: One physician office in Utah used patient management software to send text reminders to patients, reducing no-shows rate in half and eliminated 10 hours of reminder phone calls.  [source].
  • Medication reminders: A 2017 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found text messaging medication reminders resulted in 14.2% improvement in patient adherence [source].
  • Surgery protocols: Sending out pre & post surgery patient protocol reminders could reduce surgical cancellations and preventable readmissions, which can cost hospitals up to $5,000 and $14,000 per event respectively [source] [source]

HIPAA compliance and SMS

As convenient as SMS texting can be, there are still clear parameters around the handling of PHI (protected health information).

Covered entities can use SMS to direct patients to a secure patient portal to view PHI and communications from their healthcare provider. SMS can also be used to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to prevent unauthorized access to data and accounts.

Choosing a provider for texting in healthcare

Hospital networks, pharmacies, and other covered entities should align themselves with established carriers and service providers that have the knowledge and expertise to provide them with options to help navigate emerging telecom options and HIPAA compliance. An experienced provider like Bandwidth, which has a reliable network, can make sure those important messages get delivered correctly.

As more patients begin to use smartphones to access their health information, they expect their healthcare providers to deliver convenient omnichannel experiences. Text messaging is just one medium for that experience. In our next installment, we’ll cover what to consider when evaluating telephony providers.

Read the whole series

Disclaimer: The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only.