Texting in Healthcare: Benefits, Risks, + HIPAA Rules [2024]

May 2, 2024 (Updated) | By Sam Pelton
cartoon representation of medical professionals texting

Have you ever received a text message reminder of an upcoming dentist's appointment?

Or on the workplace communication side, how much more likely would you be to pay attention to a meeting reminder or a notice that servers are down if you received those notices via text message?

Healthcare providers of all kinds (such as hospitals) are turning to texting to help them stay connected to patients and staff.


Because people prefer texting.

For example, one study found that texting “was preferred over e-mail, phone, and letters for communication” among the study’s participants. It also concluded that with appointment reminders specifically, 78% wanted to receive them via texting.

Texting has read rates as high as 55% and "view rates" as high as 100%, so it’s easy to visualize why texting is a popular method to effectively reach both staff and patients.

So whether you work for a hospital, doctor’s office, vision center, or the like, should you use texting for your own healthcare organization?

Here we’ll go over:

  • Why you should use texting
  • Ways to use texting
  • How to text securely

Benefits of Texting in Healthcare

So what are the benefits of texting in healthcare?

Is healthcare texting worth it?

There are several key benefits...

High Read Rates

Imagine you got a ding on your phone right now.

How long would it take before you at least checked the preview to see who it was from?

As mentioned, texting has a read rate as high as 55%, and as much as 100% of recipients at least "view" the text message preview.

In other words, everyone texts, and everyone checks their texts regularly.

Therefore, texting allows you to communicate with staff and patients in a way they’ll actually pay attention to.

This will help you really connect with people so that they see your updates, reminders, and announcements—which opens up the door for other important benefits (better productivity, better revenue, and better patient experience).

Better Productivity

Do any of the following communication issues seem familiar?

  • Doctors coming into work even though offices are closed due to a snowstorm
  • Employees scrambling to figure out how to get work down when servers are down
  • Staff across town missing a memo because they didn't check their email in time

Being able to effectively notify your staff will help you streamline communication, helping to mitigate these kinds of miscommunications. That way, your productivity is at its peak.

SMS can help make sure your staff is all on the same page, and that everyone is aware of any issues, updates, or needs.

More awareness means better communication in your workplace, which means better productivity.

Better Revenue

Being able to effectively notify clients and patients about their appointments (or other info) will help make sure they fully take advantage of your services.

That means, not only will they benefit from using your services, but you’ll benefit from the revenue they bring in.

Example: your patient, busy middle-aged mom Sally Jones, sees the text message reminder about her upcoming appointment with a cardiologist the next day. It had completely slipped her mind, so she quickly puts it in her calendar and makes sure she remembers to go.

If she hadn't received the text, she may have been a no-show. Now she's remembered to show up.

And more show-ups usually means... more revenue.

Better Patient Experience

Text messaging in healthcare opens the door to a better user experience all around.


Because people appreciate reminders and updates.

Using the example of "Sally" from above, getting reminders about an appointment helped Sally not forget to keep that appointment - which helps prevent the unwanted consequence of her needing to reschedule (and possibly of needing to pay a no-show fee).

Risks of Texting in Healthcare

If text messaging in healthcare has so many obvious benefits, why not just jump in and do it?

Because of HIPAA.

Lack of Encryption

SMS by nature is not encrypted or private, which means you can't send PHI via text messaging unless patients waive their HIPAA rights regarding PHI.

In other words, you can't send your patient Sally a message like this:

Hi Sally, your MRI is scheduled for 2pm tomorrow. Please bring your BlueCrossBlueShield card with you."

Many texting services get around this lack of encryption by not being true SMS services. Instead, they use a secure messaging software/app that patients must download or login to access.

Alternatively, you could avoid including PHI in your text messages. Or you could use text messages as a way to direct people to access a secure online portal to view their messages.

Data Storage Non-Compliance

You also need to be aware of how your texting platform is storing your patients' data.

Some businesses have not established clear security protocols for storing data.

And if your texting platform is not storing data in a HIPAA-compliant way, you could be violating HIPAA regulations.

(And you don't want that!)

Make sure your texting platform is willing to sign a BAA to store your data in compliance with HIPAA.

Lack of Record Keeping

Texting platforms may not give you access to all the documentation you need for record keeping.

You'll need to make sure you can track all messages sent to and from your patients, so that you can have those conversations documented.

This documentation should be easily accessible by logging in and select export options within your dashboard.

Benefits of risks of texting in healthcare

Is SMS HIPAA Compliant? Best Practices...

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy laws are always on your mind as a healthcare worker.

And rightly so!

After all, you don't want to accidentally violate Sally's rights as a patient. (Sally is your imaginary patient in case you didn't read the sections above!)

So how does text messaging fit into those laws?

The good news is that texting is allowed under HIPAA. However, since texting in general is not inherently encrypted or private, you must make sure you meet the requirements for protected health information.

Here are some tips to help.

Understand the HIPAA Regulations and How They Apply to Text Messaging

Make sure you understand which types of healthcare text messages are considered PHI (protected health information) and which are not, as well as all the other rules and regulations around secure text messaging in healthcare.

As mentioned, texting in general is not inherently encrypted or private, so make sure you’re not sending any messages that violate privacy rights.

Not sure whether certain info falls under PHI? When in doubt, leave it out!

If you want to communicate with your patient Sally regarding PHI, you can’t do it directly over SMS without particular consent.

But what if you want to remind Sally about the nature of her upcoming appointment? Or give her instructions on how to prepare?

You can send a text with a link leading to the encrypted content you’re trying to communicate, such as a link to your patient portal.

In this way, you can still take advantage of the power of texting while maintaining compliance with HIPAA regulations.

You can be helpful to Sally while still respecting her rights.

(Alternatively, you can get ask patients to waive their HIPAA rights in regards to receiving PHI information via text messages.)

Enable Data Loss Prevention Measures to Secure All Communication and Prevent Unauthorized Access

One of the most important steps to a compliant healthcare text messaging process is to implement data loss prevention (DLP) measures.

Some elements of your DLP process should include:

  • Monitoring communication streams
  • Identifying confidential information such as patient health data
  • Preventing messages containing this type of data from being sent outside of a secure system

Let's say you have a well-meaning employee, Joe. He doesn't mean any harm, but even though he's received training, he just doesn't understand all the in's and out's of HIPAA. So he uploads PHI data into a text messaging platform that is able to be accessed by an unauthorized user.


A DLP approach helps mitigate those kinds of risks associated with unauthorized access and ensures that all communications are secure.

When it comes to text messaging, all of this is important so that none of your users accidentally engages in texting activity that violates HIPAA regulations.

Establish Logs and Auditing Protocols for Security Monitoring and Compliance Assurance Purposes

To ensure HIPAA compliance and healthcare security, you already know that it’s important to establish logs and auditing protocols for monitoring purposes.

You can export your texting logs and store them in a protected system that supports HIPAA compliance (which can also help you detect any potential data breaches or suspicious activity).

Auditing systems should also be established to help you review the security measures currently in place, so that corrective action can be taken quickly and efficiently if necessary.

Maintain Updated User Management Policies to Ensure Only Authorized Employees Have Access to PHI

Part of maintaining a secure text messaging process requires that medical staff adhere to stringent user management policies.

For example, as much as Alicia is a good employee, it's just not necessary for her to have access to your patient texting database since it increases liability.

User management policies should include procedures for verifying new user requests, updating existing user roles, and removing access rights when they are no longer needed.

All changes to user access rights should be documented, as these logs may be necessary for meeting certain HIPAA audit requirements.

How Can You Use Texting in Healthcare?

There are many uses for using healthcare text messaging.

Shift Requests

Staff needed tonight at 1900. Bonus offered! Please reply to this text or call xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you.

Meeting Reminders

Reminder: staff meeting, Friday, November 13th at 7:00 A.M. See invite for meeting information.

Timesheet Notices

Please remember to review timesheets, add leave if needed, and submit before you leave today.

IT Issues

NebCare Alert: There is currently a wide area outage affecting phone and internet services in Lincoln. The internet outage in Lincoln is also affecting internet connectivity at our branch sites. We have reported the issue to our internet and phone provider in Lincoln and are working to restore services as soon as possible. There is no ETA at this time.

Weather Notices

Due to possible inclement weather, ALL staff will report at 9am tomorrow. Stay tuned for further updates.

Misc. Updates

For security reasons, staff at Jeremiah Health are asked not to come into work until 9:00 this morning. There will be no access to the building until 10 today. Please reply with UNDERSTOOD.

Appointment Reminders

Reminder: Your appointment is tomorrow at 2:20pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to fill out paperwork. Click here if you need to reschedule: [link]

How Do You Set Up a Healthcare Texting System?

Here are 3 steps for getting an SMS system set up for your healthcare business or organization.

Step 1: Select an SMS Platform

You first need to select an SMS platform like Mobile Text Alerts.

You can get a free 14-day trial to get a feel for how services work, and can book a demo to get a live, 1-on-1 walkthrough.


Step 2: Load in Contacts

Once you have an account set up, you just need to get contacts loaded into the platform. Healthcare workers often do this by importing a spreadsheet of contacts.

You can also load in contacts by connecting to your other services via integrations or API. (There are a variety of other methods for adding contacts as well.)

Get a Free 14-Day Trial with Mobile Text Alerts

set password visible
Manage subscribers

Step 3: Schedule Your Messages

You can then type out your message and schedule it for the time you’d like it to send (or click to send it immediately).

You can set this up directly within the platform, or within the mobile app.

Send message

Set Up Healthcare Texting Now

You can get a free trial for healthcare text messaging set up in less than 5 minutes (no credit card required).

Click here to get your free trial.

*Note that the advice in this article should not be taken as legal counsel

Get a Free 14-Day Free Trial Account

Start sending mass text alerts to your entire list today!