Texting in the hospital: Q&A with Doc Halo

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Texting isn’t just for teens. Physicians love it, too. In this interview, Doc Halo’s COO, Cliff McClintick, answered my questions about doctors and texting.

Why do doctors like to text?

Physicians love to text because they already use the communication tool in their lives outside of work. Texting is convenient and makes sense in our digital world. And when physicians share information via text with nurses and other care providers, such as test results, medical notes and recommendations, errors are less likely to happen and patients receive more effective care.

What’s wrong with doctors using regular text messaging services from their mobile phone carriers?

Texting on commercial carrier platforms allows for fast communication but it is not secure and it violates privacy regulations spelled out in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. Patient health information and medical data must be protected. HIPAA requires privacy and security measures as it relates to the sending and sharing of patient health information.

Is text messaging essentially a workaround, or can it be part of a formal workflow?

An encrypted, secure text messaging system acts as a mobile portal clinicians use to talk with each other, share critical patient information and access medical data from anywhere.

Secure texting enables clinicians to interact with colleagues and patients using a communication format they are already comfortable with. Being able to send messages from the bedside means more time with patients. And when entire healthcare teams are on the same secure texting platform, physicians’ perceptions of in-hospital communication improve.

Is text messaging efficient?

Yes. Secure text messaging is a much more efficient means of communication. It allows physicians and their staff to avoid playing phone tag for much of their day. And unlike a phone call, secure texting allows users to go back to the message to review what was discussed. You can avoid phone tag using email, but it is not immediate, is often ignored, and lacks the real-time nature of texting.

A secure messaging system gives physicians access to on-call listings and provider directories. With the push of a button, physicians can make referrals and communicate about patient needs with other physicians within their network in real time.

Secure messaging saves time and money; adding up to millions of dollars saved a year for the average hospital. Secure texting eases the workflow slowdown that context switching causes as clinicians try to work within several different electronic systems.

How long before text messaging for doctors will become outdated?

Secure text messaging is just beginning to be adopted. In today’s environment, most physicians are using their smartphones in some way, whether to research medication interactions or to check a diagnosis. Among younger physicians – those under age 35 – 90 percent already use their smartphones at work, says a Kantar Media study.

Secure texting is No. 2 on a list of mobile health apps physicians say they will consider using in the next 12 months, according to a survey from MedData Group. Mobile access to electronic health records or an EHR was No. 1.

What role does your company play in text messaging?

Doc Halo provides encrypted HIPAA-compliant text messaging to the healthcare industry. This ensures that patient health information is secure. Our system is just as fast and easy as regular texting. Yet it is secure and it makes every physician in each client’s network accessible with the push of a button. This removes time wasted playing phone tag and makes physician referrals practically instantaneous.

Doc Halo was founded by two physicians who wanted to create mobile apps for healthcare by having physicians and technology experts work together. Dr. Jose Barreau and Dr. Amit Gupta are hematologists/oncologists with a keen interest in improving healthcare communications, especially among different physicians involved in a patient’s care. Better communication leads to better patient outcomes.

As smartphone use and health IT proliferates among healthcare professionals and the public, it is imperative that we continue to study the best ways to harness the power of these tools to improve physician workflows – and healthcare in general – in safe, secure and efficient ways.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams of the Health Business Group

 

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