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HIPAA Ruling Regarding Correspondence Through Text Messages and Emails: Is Your Organization Compliant?


Understand the various ways health care communications can take place and how texting and email fit in with HIPAA rules.

Medical professionals want to use texting and email to communicate professionally, and patients and clients of health care services often ask to communicate with health care offices via email or text message. Demands to use new technologies and new guidance from HHS on individual access to protected health information indicate that many policies and procedures in place at every health care-related organization will need to be reviewed and updated. Organizations need to understand various ways that health care communications can take place and how texting and email for both patients and providers fit in with the HIPAA rules. They need to design and implement a communication policy and plan and train their staff on it, or they may face significant new fines for noncompliance. While professional communications between providers, insurers, business associates, and other business parties should always be conducted securely, there is more flexibility in using less secure technologies for communications with patients in some circumstances. This topic will discuss the differences between professional and patient communications, how they must be treated, most efficiently enable communications, and how to remain within the bounds of HIPAA compliance. We will also discuss the latest guidance about texting from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and The Joint Commission.



Jim Sheldon-Dean

Jim Sheldon-Dean

Lewis Creek Systems, LLC

  • Founder and director of compliance services at Lewis Creek Systems, LLC
  • Provides a complete suite of services related to information privacy and security regulatory compliance, including compliance reviews, information flow and risk analyses, technical security reviews, training and policy development services
  • Conducts regular seminars and workshops on health care information privacy and security, information management and disposal, and information security risk analysis
  • Speaker at national conferences for the American Health Information Management Association and the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange
  • Recipient of the 2011 WEDI Award of Merit
  • M.S. degree, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; B.S. degree, summa cum laude, University of Vermont
  • Can be contacted at

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