Considerations for Texting Your Occupational Therapist

Texting Your OT.
Texting Your Occupational Therapist. GettyImages

When individuals are trying to coordinate schedules, as happens with an occupational therapy appointment, texting is pure gold. No more dialing through automated messages to reach someone at the front desk or receiving messages from an unknown number.

In addition to the scheduling perks, texting provides a quick and easy way to check-in with your therapist without visiting the clinic.

But, before texting your occupational therapist (or any healthcare professional), you should take a few moments to educate yourself on your right to privacy in the communication process.

Your healthcare professional has access to personal information that should not be made available to the public or interested parties, without your consent.

Why Standard Texting Is Not Secure

Text messaging is not a secure way of communicating. Period. Texts can be intercepted, accidentally forwarded, viewed by someone glancing at your phone, and archived by your carrier even when deleted from you device.

Because texting is not secure, it is not a HIPPA compliant way to send personal health information. HIPPA stands for the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act. The law states that your health care provider must protect any individually identifiable health information.

Personal health information extends deeper than you may think. It isn’t just insurance information or details about your diagnosis. It is any information that identifies that you are receiving services from a particular healthcare provider.

People should not be privy to the fact that you see an OT.  

Personal health information includes your

Examples of Unsecure Texts You Should Not Receive

Violations of HIPPA can be subtle and at times unintentional.

Below are some examples of seemingly innocent texts that contain personal health information.

  • This message is for Sarah Lyon. You have an appointment with Pelvic Health OT tomorrow at 2.
  • Our clinic is located at 123 Bean St., Chicago, IL- right down the street from you!
  • Happy Birthday from your friends at Well OT. 92 looks good on you!
  • Hi, Sarah! Sorry to hear that your rheumatoid arthritis if flaring up again. Let us know if you would like to come in for an evaluation.
  • Would you like us to email you the report to

Overall, the potential for disclosing personal health information over texting is great. If you believe your personal health information has not been properly protected through texting or any other means, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services.

More Secure Options

There are options out there for securely texting with your healthcare professional. Doc Halo, TigerText and Cortex are a few of the options used by clinicians.

Dave Kittle is a physical therapist and CEO/co-founder of Vinitial, a secure texting option for OT, PT and SLP.

I was able to catch up with him about what to look for in a secure messaging system.

Kittle stated that a secure text messaging system should be encrypted; 256-bit encryption is considered the industry standard. The system should also require a log-in so that someone who picks up your phone cannot access the private information. When looking through the website, you should also look for phrases like “HIPPA compliant.”

The Benefits of Texting

Texting is convenient. It puts you one click away from your OT or PT. For example, a patient can check in with an OT about an arm fracture that happened a year ago. Or, a clinician can easily check in after discharge. Kittle said of his experience with texting, “the response that we have seen from people using text has been unbelievable. Patients share an amount of detail that they wouldn’t over a personal cell-phone number. We also don’t see those type of exchanges over email, which can feel too formal.” 

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