Healthcare Text Messaging: Why and How (+ HIPAA Compliance)

February 28, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Doctor texting

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 a 98% read rate, 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

Should You Use Texting for Healthcare?

As mentioned, texting has a 98% read rate.

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 2 important benefits: increased productivity and increased revenue.

Increased Productivity

Being able to effectively notify your staff will help you streamline communication so that 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.

Increased 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.

How Is Text Messaging Used in Healthcare?

There are many uses for sending text alerts in your healthcare business.

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]

Is SMS HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy laws are always on healthcare workers’ minds.

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.

If you want to communicate regarding PHI, you can’t do it directly over SMS.

However, 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.

Person receiving text

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

This approach helps mitigate 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.

These 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 Do You Set Up a Healthcare Text Messaging 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.)

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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

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