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CloudView blog

Ideas and insights to help health care providers stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health care environment.

Happy Babies and Secure Texts

by Liane MacPherson, CNM

According to a 2014 HIMSS report, 83% of providers are using mobile technology to help deliver patient care. Mobile is fast becoming the medical information technology of the future and not just for patients – it’s also an essential method for exchanging health information across providers, practices and health care facilities.

Today, most medical practices have resorted to texting to exchange patient information. Makes sense, as text messaging allows providers to instantly communicate across a patient care team without the lag time of phone calls and e-mail. But there’s a major challenge for health care systems: Because the majority of health care workers use their personal phones for work purposes, 41% of devices are not password protected, and 53% of health care employees are accessing unsecured wireless networks with their phones. To ensure the confidentiality and availability of electronic protected health information (PHI), organizations need secure texting to have procedures consistent with HIPAA standards.

With the recently released athenaText text messaging service, providers are now able to send secure text messages while staying HIPAA compliant, via mobile phone, Apple Watch and our cloud-based athenaClinicals EHR. I recently spoke with Liane MacPherson, a Certified Nurse Midwife and the co-founder of Nurture Obstetrics, Gynecology & Midwifery, to discuss her experience with athenaText and how it has helped Nurture overcome their prior communication barriers and privacy concerns. – Michelle Mangino, Editorial Manager

Tell me a bit about your practice… how did your care team communicate and coordinate patient care before athenaText?

Liane MacPherson: At Nurture Obstetrics, Gynecology & Midwifery, our entire staff knows all the patients. That’s a real advantage for our small practice as we are often on call for one another while delivering babies, visiting patients at home, and welcoming women and their families to their office. But we were unable to recall and coordinate patient care information on the fly. Before athenaText, we were primarily using SMS (short message service) to send cryptic texts – no names, holding back important details to keep it anonymous – because there wasn’t a better solution. Texting was easy because everyone in the practice has a mobile phone, and it’s instant.

However, we had this huge concern hanging over our head about sending PHI and we knew we had to make a change.

How has it changed the way you communicate with your care team?

LM: We’re now able to communicate with an easy-to-use service that provides instant access to patient information – regardless of when a baby decides to come out, or when the primary provider is available. Not to mention that with athenaText, we have reassurance that we’re communicating in a secure manner.

What are some of the ways you use athenaText?

LM: We leverage the group chat feature quite a bit because we need to be in contact with the on-call provider. There are typically two midwives and two doctors on call, and we can easily follow up with the entire team at once, and coordinate the patient’s treatment plan through athenaText. And we’re mainly using athenaText on our mobile phones since we’re not at our desks much – just the nature of our job.

Do you think the service has helped improve the way you deliver patient care?

LM: athenaText has enhanced the way we communicate internally and allows us to send a comprehensive report to follow up on the patient. In the past, we were so paranoid about sending too much information via SMS that we often held back important details to keep it anonymous. Now, we are confident our messages are being sent in a HIPAA-compliant manner so we’re much more collaborative when it comes to patient care.

Anything more you’d like to share about your experience. Any words of advice for other practices looking to integrate athenaText into their care coordination?

LM: I love that I can set up athenaText with a unique sound notification for my messages. It has its own distinct sound that stands out from the normal text messages I receive on my phone. I have hard-wired that sound in my brain and know that when I hear that ‘ding,’ it’s related to a patient, and I must address it immediately. I have so much going on it’s great to be able to have a separate communication tool for my work vs. my personal life. I highly recommend other providers take a similar approach.

Change is never easy and the move from SMS to athenaText was no different. For this to be a truly successful communication tool, EVERYONE in the practice has to agree to use it. If I receive a message from a colleague via SMS, I send a follow up via athenaText. Being persistent like that and having an athenaText champion at your practice like me can help ensure high adoption and keep the care team motivated to use it.

Check out athenaText within your Epocrates mobile app or download it for free from the Apple App StoreSM or Google PlayTM store.

App Store and Apple Watch are trademarks of Apple Inc.


Liane MacPherson is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) and the co-founder of Nurture Obstetrics, Gynecology & Midwifery.

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Cloudview Blog

Ideas, insights and analysis to help physicians, medical groups and health systems stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health environment.

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Submitted by Jose Rojas - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It is always to be safe; and keep important information on hand. Good progress in our technology advancement will enhance new opportunities.

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