How a Phone Answering Service Can Make Text Messaging Safe and Viable for Physicians

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As more physicians turn to text messaging as a preferred method of communication with colleagues and patients, the age old problems of patient privacy as well as accessibility to the physician are best dealt with via use of a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant phone answering service.

For many physicians, long days are spent either seeing patients or performing procedures in an associated hospital or seeing patients in the practice. Their ability to efficiently use their time in order to provide the best care to each patient requires them to stay tethered to their smartphone or other digital device in order to receive and send messages via voice, text or even email. Today’s physician often relies on text messaging to communicate with their patients and colleagues. This brings up both practical and legal issues that the physician must consider.

While the Joint Commission recommends that physicians limit their use of text messaging to non-prescription messaging as the process cannot verify the sender’s identity, texting can still be a highly useful communication tool when the physician is otherwise engaged. Even when the message contains low priority personal health information specific to a patient, HIPAA privacy rules still require that the message be secure and private.

In addition, if there is any need for future referencing of a text message, it must be held in a way that is both secure and accessible to the physician. Medical answering services can accommodate all of these needs in a highly streamlined way.

By using a skilled and HIPAA compliant medical phone answering service, physicians can lessen the burden of the office staff at a multi physician practice where their hands are often full dealing with patient appointments for the medical staff seeing patients in the facility. An ideal answer is to route all of a physician’s calls through a phone answering service that is skilled in working with medical practices when they are away from the practice and otherwise engaged. This ensures that all calls will be answered by a live voice that understands how the practice works and has experience in dealing with patient calls.

While they can take messages for the lowest priority calls for the physician, other calls can be routed directly to the physician’s smartphone or digital device in the form in which it arrives whether that is as a text message, voice message or email. This ensures that the physician will receive all of their priority calls regardless of the time or where they are while relieving the burden from the office staff. This is particularly important after regular practice hours.

Regardless of it being a voice, text, or email message, medical answering services are able to provide the security encryption necessary for keeping the information private so that only the physician can access the messages. In addition, the HIPAA-compliant phone answering service has the technology infrastructure to retain a copy of the messages in their various forms for an extended period of time.

This ensures that if they are needed further for download to an EHR or for other reference by the physician they are available and secure for the legally required amount of time. The physician can be assured that the message is secure, and that they can be deleted from the physician’s phone. This is a necessary safeguard to potential loss or theft of the phone or digital device, which can put the patient’s privacy at risk.

Having a phone answering service with call agents and technology infrastructure that is geared to working with medical professionals allows a streamlined way to verify who received the message, audit the message, monitor the message, and safely and securely archive it in a system that is password protected and encrypted.

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