The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 — better known as HIPAA — has been a transformative force within the healthcare sector since it was enacted. It should be no surprise because fines can reach sums of $50,000 per violation or up to $1.5 million per year, while penalties can even include jail time. On top of this, many companies have no-budge policies that involve firing any employee that is involved in a HIPAA violation.
HIPAA regulations impact virtually every aspect of operations for a company, clinic or other organization within the healthcare space and messaging is one area where there is tremendous potential for violations. Yet a great deal of uncertainty swirls around the topic of HIPAA compliant messaging. Specifically, what is HIPAA compliant instant messaging? And what features need to be present in order to avoid HIPAA violations when sending and receiving instant messages?
Features of HIPAA-Compliant Instant Messaging Apps
A HIPAA-compliant text messaging app must have a number of functionalities that go beyond even the most full-featured enterprise messaging apps. HIPAA compliant messaging platforms are designed to guard protected patient data known as PHI or protected health information. PHI encompasses any and all patient data that can be traced back to a specific individual.
The following features and functionalities are among those required to avoid fines and achieve HIPAA compliance with an instant messaging app.
Encryption is required at all times. This includes while the data is in transit, such as while it is being uploaded and downloaded, and while the data is at rest in storage. Encryption is required because it protects PHI in case a message is intercepted or a device is accessed by an unauthorized individual.
Unique user IDs are required to send, receive and access instant messages. These IDs must be trackable and there must be a traceable record of what data was accessed, sent, received, etc. by that user.
Data must be stored in an isolated, encrypted environment, such as a secure data silo or a secure cloud data storage platform. PHI data cannot be stored alongside any other data.
Text from messages along with images and videos cannot be displayed on notifications, such as push notifications. Otherwise, you may risk unnecessary PHI exposure, particularly when the device is not in active use. Along these same lines, users cannot save, screencap or copy and paste message data.
Security features and multi-factor authentication are required to ensure that the intended user is sending and receiving messages containing PHI.
Data retention and data auditing capabilities are not technically required, but these measures are very important from a data ownership perspective and from a more general regulatory compliance standpoint. Auditing capabilities allow you to prove regulatory compliance in many instances, while data ownership and control is very important overall due to the sensitive and valuable nature of the information that may be transmitted over a company’s instant messaging platform.
Are SMS Text Messages HIPAA Compliant?
Medical professionals and others within the healthcare space usually seek out instant messaging mobile apps once they learn that SMS text messages are not HIPAA-compliant. SMS text messages have a few traits that make it impossible to achieve compliance, thereby placing an organization at risk and leaving the door open to regulatory compliance fines and penalties.
Firstly, messages that may contain PHI are stored without encryption and locally on the user’s device for an indefinite period of time. There is no encryption. Additionally, cell service providers temporarily store message data on servers that fail to meet HIPAA compliance guidelines and there is no ability to recall or delete a message once it’s sent.
All of these traits and others make it impossible to achieve HIPAA compliance with SMS texts. And this says nothing of vulnerabilities for PHI exposure in the event that a device is lost, stolen or compromised due to a weak password.
SMS text messaging and consumer-grade messaging apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage simply don’t have the features and functionalities that are required for HIPAA compliant messaging. You need a messaging app for business communications and regulatory compliance to avoid fines and penalties.
Instant Messaging for Business Communications: SayHey Messenger®
SayHey Messenger® is a user-friendly instant messaging app for business communications, designed with regulatory compliance in mind.. The admin portal also allows for easy moderation and data management capabilities. The latter ensures that all message data is retained and auditable for easy reference and reporting.
Instant messaging has become an integral part of the corporate landscape. In fact, messaging apps have been found to be some of the most effective business communication tools. But you need to have the right app designed for business — not a consumer-grade messaging app like WhatsApp because as discussed above, these platforms can lead to serious problems.
SayHey Messenger® is a unique and regulatory-compliant business instant messaging platform that solves many of the challenges that companies face when it comes to communication. The team at 7T developed SayHey Messenger® as a method for patching the holes in your company’s messaging situation.
The SayHey Messenger® app features:
- Data sovereignty for control and ownership of all messaging data;
- Fully compliant instant messaging for regulated businesses;
- Seamlessly integrates into existing company software platforms;
- Admin portal for moderation, auditing, and inclusivity;
- SayHey Spaces for company-wide broadcasts and team collaborations; and
- Engaging, intuitive user interface for incredible adoption rates.
- Send compliant SMS messages to external users with full data retention.
- Custom UI with your logo, colors and branding elements for a style that’s all yours.
SayHey Messenger® offers two regulatory-compliant deployments: a SayHey Messenger® Business deployment with a mobile app platform (for iOS and Android) and web app portal. There’s also SayHey Messenger® Enterprise deployments, which entail storing all messaging data in the client’s private cloud environment and the platform is fully integrated within the client’s existing software platforms, including mobile applications. This allows users to access their instant messages without leaving the screen, leading to greater productivity, higher user adoption rates and better efficiency.
Consider using SayHey Messenger® as your business messaging platform. And the best part? We can deploy this business messaging solution in a matter of days. Contact us today to learn more about SayHey Messenger®.