For years, the beeper/pager has been the primary means of communicating secure messages between hospital staff and employees. In the age of smart phones and tablets, however, beepers seem to be an anachronism. Most only allow for short messages and necessitate a phone call to clarify the full nature of a patient’s situation. Nevertheless, due to privacy restrictions around HIPAA, it has proven difficult to transmit secure information across any other platform. Furthermore, any messaging platform would be held to a high standard, considering the consequences of a HIPAA violation.
Enter HIPPOmsg, a free secure HIPAA text messaging service. HIPPOmsg was founded in March of 2012 by two former ENT residents who trained together at Tufts Medical Center more than a decade before, in the era of pagers and landlines, when mobile phone use was still banned in hospitals. One of the co-founders, Alex Grilli, is Assistant Surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary and Clinical Instructor in Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School. The other, Rahul Shah, is a pediatric ENT at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
We had a chance to chat with Dr. Shah about the origins of HIPPOmsg and its features:
[My co-founder and I] were on the phone catching up with one another in February 2012 when simultaneously each of our residents/fellows texted us protected health information (PHI) about our patients. We started talking about it and this where HIPPOmsg came about. It is a free messaging platform to securely send PHI via text, email – on iPad, iPhone, Android smartphones, and desktop. Most importantly, for practicing physicians it offers an amazingly efficient manner to reach another physician without even knowing their office phone backline, email, or cell number. You can find any registered provider in HIPPOmsg (there are currently about 800) and send them a message.
This has been huge for both of us – to communicate with our referring physicians and doctors in the community. That is how we are trying to transform healthcare communication – by breaking down the institutional silos and allowing free HIPAA compliant communication across institutions and between doctors.
Dr. Shah has gone on to become a national expert in patient safety and quality improvement, demonstrating that poor communication and medical errors go hand in hand.
HIPPOmsg went live in August 2012 and within a month acquired 100 users with no marketing effort. Its features include:
- Its completely free!
- User-friendliness on smartphones, PCs, or tablets
- Security: Its been developed and tested by a national HIPAA expert
- Has a unique network allowing an instant connection with any registered heatlhcare provider.
- Its newest versions expand the user base to include pharmacists, administrators, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students
We encourage clinicians to try out this free service – it could make your patient-related communications a lot easier!