Skip to the main content.
Talk to sales Start for free
Talk to sales Start for free

2 min read

Informed consent for HIPAA compliant text messaging

Informed consent for HIPAA compliant text messaging

The ease of use associated with text messaging makes it particularly useful in healthcare settings for quick exchanges of information between healthcare providers and patients. However, when handling protected health information (PHI) in accordance with HIPAA, text messaging requires informed consent to ensure compliance with privacy and security regulations.


Why is informed consent necessary?

By obtaining consent, healthcare entities respect patients' autonomy and allow them to choose whether their information can be shared via text messaging or other communication channels. This enables individuals to understand the potential risks and benefits associated with the transmission of their health information through text messaging or any other form of communication.

Informed consent also serves as evidence that the healthcare entity has fulfilled its obligations under HIPAA and is acting in compliance with the law. It provides a necessary legal foundation for transmitting PHI through text messaging while maintaining HIPAA compliance.


Is text messaging HIPAA compliant

Text messaging itself is not specifically HIPAA compliant , but, similar to email and HIPAA compliant email software, texting can be compliant with a HIPAA compliant texting service. It is possible for text messaging to be used in a way that complies with HIPAA regulations if precautions and security measures are implemented. The patient's informed consent is one of those measures. 


How to request consent from patients

  1. Inform patients: Clearly communicate the purpose and nature of the communication through text messaging. 
  2. Explain privacy and security: Describe the measures in place to protect the privacy and security of their PHI during text messaging. 
  3. Provide opt-in or opt-out options: Clearly explain that by opting in, they consent to the use of text messaging for exchanging their health information. 
  4. Consent forms: Develop a written consent form specifically for text messaging, ensuring it contains all necessary elements required by HIPAA
  5. Signature or acknowledgment: Obtain patients' written or electronic signatures on the consent form, indicating their agreement to participate in text messaging communication.
  6. Documentation: Maintain accurate records of the consent process, including the signed consent forms or electronic acknowledgments. 
  7. Revocation process: Clearly explain to patients how they can revoke their consent for text messaging at any time. 


How to ensure valid informed consent

Healthcare organizations should use clear and unambiguous language in the consent message. This goes hand in hand with a written consent form specifically tailored to the type of communication they request consent for, such as text messaging. Additionally, organizations can implement a verification process to confirm the identity of the patient giving consent, utilizing unique identifiers or authentication methods. 


Potential risks related to text messaging in healthcare organizations 

Note that HIPAA compliance extends beyond text messaging and encompasses various aspects of privacy, security, and data protection. Text messaging software is not often designed with HIPAA compliance in mind and, therefore, may not include the security measures required to secure PHI. It is also a more informal communication method and can blur professional boundaries between healthcare providers and patients if not used correctly. 

Related: Texting tools and HIPAA compliance: The ultimate guide

Subscribe to Paubox Weekly

Every Friday we'll bring you the most important news from Paubox. Our aim is to make you smarter, faster.