E-Handbook:

Investigate uses for secure messaging for healthcare

BACKGROUND IMAGE: simon2579/iStock

Secure communications in healthcare centers on PHI safeguards

In summer 2017, cybersecurity certainly had the world's attention. No less than the presidents of the United States and Russia discussed the issue in person.

In our own world of healthcare, data security may not carry as much political weight, but if you ask patients, it's probably more important. Secure messaging for healthcare offers a good example of why: No one wants to imagine an email from a physician containing sensitive health treatments getting intercepted by a rogue who somehow jumped the barbed wire fence of data security measures.

Secure communications solve an important business challenge of helping clinicians and patients save time with routine interactions, such as providing lab results. Methods for this communication can range from emails via a patient portal to more sophisticated collaboration techniques.

But, as with many devices and software in healthcare, threats to protected health information always cast a shadow on how well hospitals safeguard communications between physicians, nurses and patients.

I read an article recently in our sister publication, SearchUnifiedCommunications, about the core security elements behind a business messaging app or suite. Two areas struck me as particularly important for hospitals and other medical organizations:

  • Encryption remains hugely important for secure messaging for healthcare organizations. "For an enterprise messaging application, end-to-end encryption is a desired outcome, especially when relying on cloud services and third-party servers to manage and route messages," the story noted.
  • Also, because patient information is regulated by HIPAA, healthcare organizations must verify that whatever communications app they use reflects the privacy and security law's requirements.

This new handbook builds on these security tips with additional best practices for protecting healthcare communications and associated patient data.

Blockchain has potential in this area. The cryptography-based technology creates a tamper-proof series of transactions -- such as exchanging health data -- that guards against breaches. Whether hackers can break into a blockchain code remains to be seen, but the option is worth investigating to better ensure secure messaging for healthcare.

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