medical_secure_messagingMobile devices are one of the largest contributors of data for healthcare analytics. Mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones are being used increasingly for “traditional” healthcare purposes (such as accessing Electronic Health Records, or EHRs). Perhaps more significantly, however, these devices are being used at an increasing rate by patients for accessing their own health information (via patient portals), tracking healthy behaviors (such as exercise and diet), and communicating with their providers. The more information that is accessed and shared via mobile devices over wireless networks, however, the greater the risk that exists for a security and privacy breach of that information.

The use of mobile messaging tools for communication of healthcare related information, while convenient, poses a significant risk of security and privacy breach of such messaging if the appropriate precautions are not taken. In a recent article I wrote for Search Health IT on the topic of Secure Healthcare Messaging, I provide an overview on Secure Messaging for healthcare, including the risks associated with “consumer grade” messaging (such as SMS) and how Secure Messaging addresses the many security holes inherent with other messaging technologies.

In the article, I discuss that although Short Message Service (SMS) can be a quick and effective way to communicate, there are definite drawbacks to the use of SMS and similar messaging services when used for purposes beyond quick greetings:

  • In addition to being limited to 160 characters in a single SMS message, delivery of an SMS message is not guaranteed. 
  • Messages that contain health information are vulnerable to being intercepted, read by and forwarded to anyone. 
  • The Joint Commission has, in essence, banned physicians from using SMS for any communications that would result in the transmission of ePHI [electronic protected health information] data or orders for a patient to a healthcare organization (such as hospital or other service). 

In my article, I mention that a safer alternative to SMS that can be used in healthcare is Secure Messaging. Secure Messaging utilizes a server-based approach which enables secure and protected transmission of healthcare information that employs bidirectional encryption of point-to-point delivery of messages, stores information on a secured network server, and ensures delivery of the message to a single known receiving entity.

I have always maintained that as analytics professionals and users of healthcare information, we need to take every precaution necessary to ensure that the data we are privileged to access is held secure, and privacy is protected, using every means possible. For analytics professionals, this definitely now includes how we use mobile devices for communication of that healthcare information.


Laptop-and-stack-of-color-bookMany readers of my blog will know that my first book, Healthcare Analytics for Quality and Performance Improvement, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc., was released in October 2013. One important niche that my book addresses is the need for a university- or college-level healthcare analytics text that is useful for both experienced and emerging healthcare analytics professionals.

Many universities and colleges are starting to offer courses on the topic of healthcare analytics. The challenge is that although there are textbooks on healthcare quality improvement, statistics, data quality and governance, and “advanced analytics” (such as predictive analytics and machine learning), there are very few credible texts that put these concepts together in a cohesive way that is both accessible to learners and comprehensive enough for seasoned healthcare professionals.

If you are a college or university instructor teaching a course about healthcare data, reporting, and analytics, you may wish to consider my book Healthcare Analytics for Quality and Performance Improvement. Already in use for Healthcare Analytics courses at high profile institutions (such as UCLA), my book is a popular choice for instructors looking for an in-depth but accessible reference that bridges the gap knowledge gap between health IT specialists, front line staff, QI teams, and administration.

For more information and details about the book, here are some links that may help:

If you are interested in an evaluation copy for possible use in a course, please follow this link for the John Wiley & Sons instructor evaluation copy request form.

If you select my book for your course, I’d be happy to work with you to develop specialized or custom content (such as slides and handouts), and even provide a guest lecture via teleconference.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email at

{ 0 comments } Now Inviting Guest Bloggers

by Trevor Strome July 3, 2014

If you have an opinion to share, knowledge to relate, a book to review, or any other healthcare analytics insight you’d like to write about, consider writing a guest post on I would welcome original, high-quality guest blog posts that cover almost any healthcare analytics topic, ranging from data quality and governance, data visualization, [...]

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High Quality Data is a Necessity for Analytics

by Trevor Strome May 26, 2014

I recently published an article on that discusses how productive healthcare analytics requires high-quality data. A few excerpts from the article are: In the age of big data and enterprise data warehouses, issues of data volume, system scalability and infrastructure management simply cannot be ignored. It is possible, though, that in our rush to incorporate [...]

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Overview of “Healthcare Analytics for Quality and Performance Improvement”

by Trevor Strome May 20, 2014

Naturally, I get asked a lot of questions about what topics and content my book “Healthcare Analytics for Quality and Performance Improvement” covers. This is especially so because healthcare analytics is a very expansive topic, and the audience for such a book is wide-ranging. To find out more about my book, you can download a [...]

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Get Up-To-Date with R to Energize your Analytics

by Trevor Strome May 16, 2014

The use of R ( as a statistical tool in healthcare analytics is quite wide-spread, and growing. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, a few of the reasons that I like R include: there is a large R user community that is willing to help with almost every conceivable question there are several power [...]

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Why your “secure” password isn’t any good, and what to do about it.

by Trevor Strome May 7, 2014

While doing research on information security relating to healthcare analytics, I came across an interesting article by Melanie Pinola about how common tricks we use to “secure” our passwords aren’t fooling the bad guys any more. In her article, she lists four strategies for creating and using more secure passwords: Avoid predictable password formulas (hint: passwords like [...]

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Institute for Health Technology Transformation (IHT2) Summit in Atlanta – April 15 & 16, 2014

by Trevor Strome April 14, 2014

I’m pleased to be co-chairing and presenting at the IHT2 Summit in Atlanta this week. Like all IHT2 summits (which all feature healthcare industry leaders), this week’s Atlanta summit promises to be an outstanding opportunity to network, share ideas, and learn about where health information technology is heading. A few of the very many outstanding topics [...]

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New from – Health IT Literature Review Report and Interactive Data Visualization

by Trevor Strome March 4, 2014

NEW Health IT Literature Review Report and Interactive Data Visualization on the Health IT Dashboard! Check out: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has just updated their Health IT Dashboard with a comprehensive literature review regarding impacts of health IT: Health Information Technology: An Updated Systematic Review with a [...]

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Embedded Healthcare Analytics – Benefits and Challenges

by Trevor Strome February 19, 2014

Most healthcare organizations (HCOs) possess some degree of business intelligence or analytics capability. In typical HCOs, this capability likely consists of data from source systems being stored in an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) or other storage repository; and analytics, Business Intelligence, and reporting is provided by one or more special-purpose tools. This arrangement offers little, [...]

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