Technological innovations in business, healthcare, and many other industries have vaulted service expectations among consumers in the past two decades. However, lags in technological improvements in healthcare facilities, specifically in communication strategies, are only starting to be addressed and implemented. Yet there are many ways healthcare providers can improve patient satisfaction and treatment plans by embracing new standards and technologies.
Most patients realize that if they want to communicate with their doctor on their care and treatment they need to do it face-to-face. If the patient wants secondary advice or information often they can call their doctor’s office. However, in order to change treatment plans, medications, or received an official diagnosis an in-person visit is required. This is the way healthcare has operated for almost a century. The last major technological communicative advance in the healthcare profession is the pager from the 1980s.
Yet in almost every other industry, providers and consumers have leapfrogged communication boundaries with the use of new technologies, such as smart phones, tablets, email, and even SMS text messaging. Most patients even receive a large portion of their advice and research through online websites that provide peer reviewed information. The status quo that requires a phone call, an appointment or physically mailed letter can be significantly upgraded to include the use of different communicative technologies to aid in patient treatment plans and satisfaction.
So why do healthcare providers hesitate to implement new modes of communication? It generally has to with patient privacy and the legislative burden healthcare providers shoulder to protect patient information. While SMS messaging, Internet video conferencing, email, and the use of application-based programs on mobile devices create convenient, time-saving means of patient care, they present significant challenges in patient privacy.
The number one concern is the security of information passing through relatively insecure channels. The possibility of leaks puts healthcare providers at risk of costly HIPAA fees. But can implementation of these new modes of communication be done in a manner that offers the convenience patients desire without risking their personal information?
Security in Patient Convenience
Healthcare providers need to be aware that patient engagement can be one of the largest factors for increased patient satisfaction, following treatment plans and placing accountability on patients with greater acceptance by the patient. Yet instituting new technological communicative advances such as SMS texting, email or application-based communication should only be done in a manner that can protect the information being transferred. Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, any electronic information transmitted that includes electronic protected health information must be done so under the regulations and be in compliance. Although many service providers and vendors for SMS texting do not fall within the parameters of the security needed there are providers specifically enabling healthcare institutions with compliant communication technology.
Encrypted text messaging can be one of the most effective ways of communication between doctor-patient relations and can advance treatment, care and patient accountability where used effectively. If you are looking to enhance patient engagement ensure your service provider meets all HIPAA regulations.