The Only Safe SMS Texting Is No SMS Texting

Greenbranch – Nov/Dec 2015
by Cheryl Toth, MBA, and Michael J. Sacopulos, JD

Many physicians and practice staff use short messaging service (SMS) text messaging to communicate with patients. But SMS text messaging is unencrypted, insecure, and does not meet HIPAA requirements. In addition, the short and abbreviated nature of text messages creates opportunities for misinterpretation, and can negatively impact patient safety and care. Until recently, asking patients to sign a statement that they understand and accept these risks—as well as having policies, device encryption, and cyber insurance in place—would have been enough to mitigate the risk of using SMS text in a medical practice. But new trends and policies have made SMS text messaging unsafe under any circumstance. This article explains these trends and policies, as well as why only secure texting or secure messaging should be used for physician–patient communication.

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