Nonprofit Compliance

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Use of Personal Cell Phones and SMS Texting

  • 1.  Use of Personal Cell Phones and SMS Texting

    Posted 06-08-2022 07:09 AM
    These issues continue to surface and cause a great deal of difficulty within our behavioral health non-profit. Many of our programs allow staff to use SMS texting on personal cell phones to communicate about work-related issues between staff and between staff and persons served. There are many issues as I see it.

    • Any use of a personal cell phone to communicate with clients seems a risk, as by even providing your personal number to a client, one is straddling a very precarious line between personal and professional. I believe it makes the boundaries unclear and poses ethical risks.
    • Many of our residential and case management-type services use group texting via personal phones as a regular means of communication. If they are communicating to say they are delayed in arrival to work on time I see no issue.  However, in other circumstances, I believe there is a significant risk as SMS texting is not encrypted end to end.
      • Conveying information about clients. Many managers take that stance that so long as they use client initials, then all is well. 
      • Attorneys and courts may request the content of text messages for litigation.
      • Texts can easily be sent to the wrong recipient and cannot be recalled.
      • Depending upon how the texts are sent (over public wifi for instance) they are easily intercepted
      • The HIPAA Security Rule mandates that there must be access controls, audit controls, and encryption securing protected health information (PHI).
    I am wondering how other entities are addressing this issue and how you are actually enforcing any rules you may put in place.
    Thank you

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    Freda Driscoll-Sbar
    Vice President of Compliance
    Center for Human Development
    Springfield,MA
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