Using text messaging can compromise a patient’s protected health information

Texas Children’s workforce members have a duty to protect the privacy and security of our patient’s and health plan members’ protected health information (PHI), even when using mobile devices. Although text messaging offers flexible two-way communication, messages sent via standard messaging are unencrypted and can be easily intercepted during transit. This could result in a breach of protected health information, which carries a reporting obligation as well as significant fines.

The following Frequently Asked Questions are meant to answer the most common questions concerning text messaging at Texas Children’s.


Can I use standard text messaging to communicate PHI with another co-worker?

No. You may not use standard text messaging to communicate confidential or proprietary information, including patient PHI. Below are some examples of communication that is not appropriate via standard text messaging:

  • “Patient Jane Smith is waiting for you in room 6”
  • “Please order a CBC on patient Jane Smith”

What information can be transmitted via standard text messaging?

It is okay to send general messages that do not contain any identifiers over unsecure messaging services (for example, your 1 p.m. appointment has arrived). Remember, however, that you should not communicate any sensitive information over standard text messaging.

Since I can’t use standard text messaging to communicate sensitive information, are there any alternatives?

Yes. Texas Children’s has implemented an approved third-party messaging solution (Spok) that incorporates measures to establish a secure communication platform. This means that you may use the Spok application to communicate confidential information within Texas Children’s. Even with the Spok application, it is important to limit the information that is communicated because patient care decisions must be documented in Epic.

How do I get the Spok application installed on my mobile device?

Discuss this with your leader and then contact Information Services at 832-824-3512.

Can I use pagers to communicate PHI?

Only if you have a Texas Children’s Spok branded pager. These pagers are synced with the Spok application on your mobile device, so that the transmission of the communication is protected. Remember that a standard pager should not be used to discuss PHI.

Can I use text messaging on Voalte phones to discuss PHI?

Yes. Communications from Voalte phone to Voalte phone do not leave Texas Children’s secure network.

Contact the Compliance and Privacy Office by calling 832-824-2085 or emailing