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10/17/16 at 10:35 AM 0 Comments

Millennial Doctors Are Now Using WhatsApp To Communicate With Their Patients

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Millennials are notorious for relying on the latest technologies and these technologies are rewarding us by enhancing their safety policies and making continuous improvements to their products. This is how doctors are turning to WhatsApp to connect with their patients and other doctors.

You've got an IM from your doctor

WhatsApp announced its new encryption system in April, which draw attention to many law enforcement agencies around the world, but it also draw doctor's attention, especially in Brazil. With Zika virus making hundreds of victims, Brazilian doctors started to use WhatsApp to track the virus, inform their patients about the symptoms and send CT scans of their patients. According to Cello Health Insight, 9 in 10 Brazilian doctors are using the app to communicate with their patients and with other doctors. In US, doctors are yet to embrace this new means of communication, as they are still worried about violating the privacy regulations, HIPAA.

Is WhatsApp reliable?

As WhatsApp is mostly used by teens to share funny ideas, doctors still feel the app is not reliable. But the reality seems to be completely different. WhatsApp is not using end to end encryption, which makes the content of the messages exchanged via the app impossible to intercept. Not even the app's officials see the content of the messages.

Now, if we look at the specific medical communication means, which are supposed to be HIPAA compliant, most of them are not. This means the content doctors exchange via these apps is prone to be intercepted by hackers. Moreover, according to statistics, 92% of medical establishments are using non-HIPAA compliant platforms to communicate.

But what really is HIPAA compliance?

There are no official methods to check the compliance, as the process of keeping the data secure is continuous and depends a lot on the user. For example, if you are not protecting your mobile device with a password, you can't be HIPAA compliant, regardless which app or platform you are using to communicate. Thankfully, the new generation of professionals with a MHA degree are studying internet safety and are already proficient with mobile devices and apps, which reduces the risks of leaking sensitive data.

Why are Brazilians so fond of WhatsApp?

This is the question that haunts me: why are Brazilian doctors embracing a new app, which is known to have some issues with their government? The answer seems to be the need for effective, fast communication!

As Zika is wreaking havoc in Brazil, doctors are in need of new means of communication. They need to be able to send quick messages, in order to control the epidemic and save as many lives as possible. Using messaging apps is cutting the delays and helps doctors send the result of the tests to their patients and to their colleagues, in order to prescribe the treatment as fast as possible.

Of course, this new practice, that is so close to millennials' core living, is bringing up more issues. If doctors are sending medical information via apps, how is this information going to be filed in the patient's medical record? In the event of a lawsuit, is the data exchange via WhatsApp valid as a court evidence? If WhatsApp decides to market itself as a medical messaging app, what will happen with all the current apps?

All these questions are hard to answer right now, as healthcare needs to gain more experience with this new technology and the WhatsApp officials need to work more with the medical field in order to get feedback on their product. For now we know that messaging your doctor might be the answer you need in order to minimize the time spent in the waiting room, which can sometimes make the difference between life and death.

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