What Laws Govern Protected Health Information (PHI) and Texting?


Read about the HIPAA Security Rule in Practice in an American Journal of Public Health article written by SMS experts.

Text messaging is a powerful communication tool for public health purposes, particularly because of the potential to customize messages to meet individuals' needs. However, using text messaging to send protected health information (PHI)All information related to physical and mental health conditions, provision of health care, and payment for health care that can be connected to a specific person. requires analysis of laws addressing the protection of electronic health information.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patient health data. Security Rule is written with flexibility to account for changing technologies. In practice, however, the rule leads to uncertainty about how to make text messaging policy decisions.

Can I Text PHI? It Depends...

Text messaging to send health information can be implemented in a public health setting through two possible approaches:

  • Restructuring text messages to remove personal health information
  • Retaining personal health information in the message, but first conducting a risk analysis and satisfying other requirements to meet the HIPAA Security Rule

Learn more about what you can include in your text messages in Messages Containing Protected Health Information (PHI).

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