AnnaMaria Turano

Real-time communications are a must-have in healthcare — especially when coordinating care or communicating with a patient. A delay in communications can lead to a breakdown in patient care and relationships with referring physicians.

Given the need for timely communications, many home health clinicians use texting to quickly connect with their colleagues and patients. However, text isn’t always best despite its popularity for convenient communications. An agency places itself and its patients at risk when sending ePHI [electronic protected health information] via unencrypted text messaging. Home health organizations must be compliant and mitigate risk when communicating PHI or face costly fines. Also, healthcare organizations that turn a blind eye to texting in violation of HIPAA can also face civil charges from the patients whose data has been exposed if the breach results in identity theft or other fraud. And free consumer group messaging apps utilize vulnerable platforms, which are unable to address health care-specific needs in terms of security and compliance.

Benefits of secure messaging

Immediacy, privacy and trust are key when sharing PHI virtually. With secure messaging functionality, home health staff members can easily and safely communicate and collaborate with colleagues, their patients and family caregivers, and with other care team members such as the referring physician or another specialist.   

Secure messaging:

  • Enables better case collaboration and care coordination by delivering vitals, wound photos and other patient information easily and securely amongst colleagues and referring physicians
  • Accelerates decision-making, helping patients receive timely care and assistance
  • Optimizes staff productivity, helping agencies better leverage specialists across a larger number of cases while eliminating internal phone tag and minimizing the need for in-person meetings   
  • Reduces ER visits and hospitalizations, helping enhance patient satisfaction and outcomes.
  • Protects an organization against costly fines for HIPAA breaches

 Example use-cases  

With secure messaging, ePHI is encrypted and workflows are optimized as a result:  

  • Wound care:  When caring for patients with wounds, the field nurse or the patient himself/herself can use their smartphone to take a photo of the current state of the wound’s healing and share it securely to the wound care specialist for proper guidance on the next steps.  The WCN can make a more immediate recommendation. The patient receives the care he/she needs; the specialist saves driving time and expenses. Productivity is optimized and satisfaction is enhanced.
  • Hospice:  When family caregivers experience problems in caring for their loved one patient and are unsure what to do next, they turn to the home health agency for immediate answers. With secure messaging functionality, a hospice nurse can quickly help the caregivers virtually and give them the support they seek. The caregiver feels more supported during this stage in the continuum of care. The nurse is able to provide more patients/caregivers with more attention as in-home visits are not always required, especially afterhours and during the weekends.   
  • Nonskilled:  When home care aides observe a significant change in a client’s condition, they need to report the change to a supervisor or clinician. With secure messaging, aides can secure message in an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant environment and share images of the client with a supervisor or clinician. Medical personnel can then provide guidance via secure messaging which may alleviate the need to send a home health nurse or EMS to the client’s home.

Impact of secure messaging

Genesis Home Health and Hospice, a 5-star agency in Nevada, implemented secure messaging to help clinicians better communicate across rural northern Nevada.  Because their patients reside in a remote area, Genesis values how secure messaging helps Genesis’ clinicians manage digital PHI correspondence, streamline care team coordination, optimize overall productivity, and most importantly, deliver critical care in real-time — reducing hospitalizations. 

Secure messaging has resulted in Genesis actively reducing overall rehospitalizations by 23% in the initial 5 months of usage, thus improving satisfaction and outcomes for their patients. 

AnnaMaria Turano is chief marketing officer for Synzi.