The University of Kansas School of Medicine out of Wichita conducted an interesting study recently that asked physicians at pediatric hospitals what form of communication they prefer for “brief communication” while on the job.
Out of 106 physicians polled, 27 percent named texting their preferred method, compared to 23 percent that favored hospital-issued pagers and 21 percent that said face-to-face conversation. Among the survey pool, 57 percent reported sending or receiving work-related text messages. “We are using text messaging more and more to communicate with other physicians, residents and even to transfer a patient to a different unit,” lead investigator Dr. Stephanie Kuhlmann said in an AAP press release. “The way that physicians are communicating appears to be shifting away from the traditional pager method. Personally, I probably get 50 to 100 text messages during a shift,” she added.”
It’s important to note that a majority of those polled were younger physicians, with 62 percent saying they’d only been practicing for 10 years or less. 68 percent of those polled were women. The study found that 9 in 10 respondents said they regularly used a smartphone and 96 percent participated in text messaging, whether with colleagues or just friends and family. Twelve percent said they send at least 10 messages per shift and only 5 percent said they received more than 20 messages each time during a typical shift. About half received work-related texts even when they were not on call, according to AAP.
Though the use of SMS is obviously on the rise with physicians, it doesn’t mean that fears of HIPAA violations are subsiding. Despite the growing popularity, only 10 percent of respondents said that their hospitals offered software that encrypts text messages, for example. More than a quarter of respondents (27 percent) reported receiving protected health information, as defined by HIPAA, via SMS, and 41 percent worried that texting could violate HIPAA privacy standards.
“We think it’s a quick method of communication, but there are concerns over HIPAA rules,” session moderator Dr. Daniel Rausch, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, told Medscape in a recent interview. “We need to learn how to use text messaging effectively, because we know this is happening,” Rausch added.