The 8 Best HIPAA-Compliant Live Chat and Text Messaging Apps

Over the last decade, many industries have seen a shift in how people want to interact with businesses and service providers, and health care is no different.

Whether it’s a desire to have more flexibility in an already busy schedule, to receive faster care, or due to health concerns that make in-person visits more challenging, patients are all in on telemedicine. In fact, 62% of patients prefer to consult with doctors remotely when possible, signaling that medicine’s move to digital platforms is more than just a pandemic trend.

One thing to keep in mind when adding digital services to your practice’s offerings is that any communication method you roll out needs to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. The law requires covered entities like health care providers and health insurance companies to take measures that help prevent the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) without patient knowledge and consent.

Though adhering to all of the law’s requirements might seem overwhelming, many tools are available to help ensure that your patient data is kept safe as you grow your communication offerings.

Why you need a HIPAA-compliant chat app

When patients choose a provider, factors like medical knowledge, experience, and health insurance compatibility are high on the list of considerations. However, studies show that patients also care about how quickly they can be seen, office location, and cost. 

Adding a live chat feature to your website can help meet these patient needs while also adding value to your team.

For patients, live chat provides care that is:

  • Real time. While email lends well to requesting records or checking in on a billing issue, it’s not ideal for getting help in the moment. Chat, on the other hand, is perfect for handling quick, time-sensitive communication. Patients can describe symptoms and send images to receive diagnoses and prescriptions, and for more serious issues, medical teams are able to triage cases and advise on next steps.

  • Convenient. Finding time to head into the doctor’s office or reach out by phone can be challenging. Live chat is fast and convenient — patients can chat at home, in the office, or on the go.

  • Cost-effective. Taking time away from work or other responsibilities and commuting to appointments can be expensive. Live chat and telehealth services are cheaper than office visits because they don’t cut into patient schedules, there’s no commute, and as the appointments are shorter, providers can charge less.

  • Accessible. Live chat makes connecting with a provider and their staff easier and improves the likelihood that those who need care will seek it out.

For providers and clinic staff, live chat:

  • Increases productivity. Handling simpler cases and administrative tasks through live chat messaging frees up resources, allowing your team to see more patients and focus on more complex issues.

  • Promotes collaboration. Many chat platforms aimed at medical offices offer secure internal messaging features that allow your team to increase collaboration and provide better patient care.

  • Creates an avenue for self-service. While live chat is designed for real-time communication, many chat platforms offer additional self-service features like knowledge base builders and HIPAA-compliant chatbots to help patients find answers on their own.

  • Improves patient satisfaction. Research shows that patients want remote care. In fact, 70% of younger generations prefer telehealth, and 44% of them have said that they may switch providers if the service isn’t offered.

While not all chat solutions are HIPAA compliant, many communications platforms offer extra security features to help you provide better care to patients while keeping their information safe.

Why is HIPAA-compliant text messaging important?

Another great option for those seeking a channel more immediate than email is text messaging. The option offers a lot of the same benefits of live chat — it’s convenient, increases productivity, is cost-effective, and improves satisfaction — but with the freedom that comes with being an asynchronous channel.

With text, providers and patients can:

  • Communicate on their own schedules. With live chat, both parties need to be available at the same time. While that is necessary for some interactions, things like letting you know a prescription is ready or confirming appointment times can easily be handled asynchronously

  • Use a familiar interface. For patients, chat generally takes place through a pop-up window on a website. For those who are primarily mobile device users, the experience can be clunky. Texting allows people to receive messages in a familiar way through an experience that is designed specifically for their device.

  • Take advantage of automation. Since a text conversation isn’t expected to be in real time, it allows medical offices and providers to initiate conversations or interactions automatically based on pre-scheduling or automatic workflows. Then, if the conversation warrants it, the interaction can be moved to a staff member or provider once the patient has engaged with the message.

One of the difficulties with utilizing text messaging in the medical field is figuring out how to keep it in line with HIPAA rules. Generally speaking, text messaging is not HIPAA compliant; however, there are some circumstances where it can be OK. For instance, if a patient initiates the SMS communication and has been made aware of the risk, health care providers can text as long as safeguards are put in place.

However, the risk of mistakes with texting is high, so many medical offices and providers opt for a HIPAA-compliant texting app, where sensitive information can be encrypted and properly maintained.

The best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging apps

If you think it may be time for your health care organization to add live chat as a communications channel, here are five HIPAA-compliant software platforms to consider.

1. Help Scout

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for growing health care organizations.

Help Scout is a software platform that helps health care professionals have better conversations with their patients and communities. The majority of the platform’s offerings can be configured to be HIPAA-compliant, including patient-preferred communication channels like live chat.

Connect with patients in real time using live chat 

Touch base with patients on their schedule using Beacon, Help Scout’s live chat widget. Place a Beacon on any web page or within your mobile app to allow patients to contact your team for real-time assistance.

Providers and administrative staff can view and reply to chat messages from Help Scout’s user-friendly interface. Create saved replies to respond to common questions with just a couple of clicks, assign conversations to specific team members to ensure patients receive the best care, leave colleagues private notes to aid in collaboration, view patient information in the chat sidebar to provide contextual responses, and easily transition complex chats over to email when more time is needed to reach a resolution.

Chat-Blog-MediaLibrary

A shared inbox for collaborative communications management

Email and live chat conversations live within Help Scout’s shared inbox.  Having all of your patient communications in one place helps create transparency within your team and prevents patient contacts from slipping through the cracks. When managed according to HIPAA requirements, Help Scout’s shared inbox is also considered to be HIPAA compliant.

Inbox-ListView-Blog-MediaLibrary

In addition to the conversation management features mentioned above, you can also tag messages to keep track of similar issues, create workflows to automate repetitive tasks, and use Help Scout’s collision detection to help prevent duplicate or conflicting information from ever reaching your patients.

Finally, monitor your efforts with Help Scout’s reporting dashboards. Keep track of chat and email volume, response time, and more.

Live chat is only the beginning

Beyond live chat and email communication, Help Scout has additional functionality that can help you increase engagement with your patients and community:

  • Messages: Keep patients up to date using Messages, a mostly code-free way to provide proactive support and share important news or announcements about your practice. 

  • Microsurveys: Collect feedback from patients using microsurveys — short, targeted, HIPAA-compliant surveys that help you gather actionable feedback in the moment.

  • Docs: Publish answers to frequently asked questions in a knowledge base to help patients find information on their own.

  • Integrations: Help Scout integrates with over 90 popular platforms and offers an open API to create a solution that suits your business’s needs.

  • Superior support: Help Scout’s customer service team provides 24/6 coverage, ensuring that you always have the tools needed to provide superior patient care.

A note about HIPAA compliance in Help Scout:

While most of Help Scout’s features can be configured to be HIPAA compliant, integrations between Help Scout and other platforms may not meet HIPAA standards. In addition, Help Scout’s AI features and knowledge base solution, Docs, are not considered to be compliant.

Keeping PHI safe with Help Scout

Help Scout maintains ongoing compliance with HIPAA and can process, maintain, and store protected health information.

Help Scout + HIPAA inline

Some of the ways Help Scout maintains HIPAA compliance include:

  • Business associate agreements (BAA). Help Scout will sign a BAA with your organization.

  • Data storage location. Our data is stored within the U.S. by Amazon Web Services and is protected under a signed BAA.

  • Uptime and data availability. We strive for a 99.99% uptime across all of our products.

  • Data security. All Help Scout web application communications are encrypted over 256-bit SSL (secure sockets layer).

  • Data destruction. Through a thread options menu, you can edit, delete, or hide thread contents. This prevents that information from being sent out again or from being quoted in a future reply. This is helpful if there are multiple parties involved in one conversation.

  • User authentication. Help Scout supports two-factor authentication (2FA) access for Help Scout credentials or SSO through Google Apps. Certain plans have options for enabling authentication via any SAML-compatible Identity Provider.

  • IP restrictions. Limiting access to your Help Scout account to a predefined list of IP addresses is available with some plans.

  • Employee training. All Help Scout employees undergo annual HIPAA training. 

  • Audits. Help Scout completes regular audits and annual risk assessments to ensure continued HIPAA compliance.

For more information on HIPAA compliance and security at Help Scout, visit:

Secure patient communication at a competitive price 

Though all of the options on this list will provide you with HIPAA-compliant messaging, Help Scout’s combo of request management, proactive communication tools, and dedicated support resources make it an excellent choice for growing health care organizations.

To learn how Help Scout can help your practice or health care organization have better conversations with your patients, schedule a demo with our team today.

Price: Free trial available. Plans including HIPAA compliance features start at $65/user per month.

2. Rocket.Chat

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for collaborative teams.

Product Screenshot: Rocket.Chat

Rocket.Chat is a collaboration platform that has a focus on security and compliance. The service is configurable for communication across multiple channels — including live chat — while maintaining compliance with policies such as HIPAA and GDPR.

There are a couple of different ways to provide live chat services to your patients with Rocket.Chat, each requiring a different amount of development lift. The low lift option is a chat widget similar to Help Scout’s Beacon, which can be customized to fit brand aesthetics and easily added to your website by pasting a code snippet into your site’s source code. If your team has more developer resources, you can create a more tailored patient experience by embedding the platform’s chat engine into your existing web and mobile applications.

Once chat is live for patients, your team can manage incoming messages through a shared workspace, which includes useful features like canned responses, private notes, and the ability to share files and images. When it comes to internal communications, Rocket.Chat steps up their game, offering an almost Slack-like experience — direct messaging, channels for group discussions, conversation threads, reactions, and even the ability to loop in vendors who use other platforms.

Potential customers may be drawn to Rocket.Chat for its free plan, which does include some safety features like 2FA and end-to-end encryption. However, health care organizations will likely need to opt for the Enterprise plan to get the features necessary to meet HIPAA compliance requirements and to get the most out of the platform.

Price: Free trial and plan available. Paid plans start at $4/user per month.

3. OhMD

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for organizations interested in automation.

OhMD is a health care messaging platform that allows patients, health care providers, and colleagues to stay in touch using channels and features that include live chat, text messaging, video visits, phone calls, forms, and surveys. The platform’s implementation can be made HIPAA compliant and is suitable for both small practice and hospital settings.

Health care organizations can use the OhMD software to add a live chat widget to their website to provide current and potential patients with an easy access point for communication with the practice. Providers or administrative staff can respond to chats from a shared inbox using features like saved replies, tags, internal notes, and conversation assignments. Once a conversation is complete, your team can send the data to your electronic health record (EHR) system with a single click — OhMD integrates with over 85 EHRs.

Outside of live chat communication, OhMD has a lot of handy features. There is internal chat functionality that allows your team to collaborate more efficiently as well as additional patient communication features that utilize SMS messaging. Through text messaging, your practice can ask patients to fill out forms or surveys. You can even use the platform’s Autopilot feature to take over common workflows like appointment scheduling and prescription refills, freeing up your team to handle more complex conversations.

Price: Free trial and plan available. Plans including live website chat start at $200 per month.

4. Twilio

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for teams with development resources.

Twilio is a technology platform that helps companies create customer communication experiences across live chat, SMS, messaging, voice, and video conferencing channels. Many of the platform’s products — including its live chat API — can be configured to be HIPAA compliant. 

Most of Twilio’s products focus on access to the platform’s APIs to build new experiences. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it provides tremendous freedom to create a patient or customer experience that is highly customized and personal. On the other hand, this type of project may feel overwhelming for smaller groups without technical resources.

If the idea of meddling with APIs makes you nervous, the platform does have one product, Twilio Flex, which is a bit more accessible. Flex lets you set up a contact center using pre-built themes, components, and plugins. You can add channels like live chat, messaging, or SMS and connect the platform to other software in your tech stack, like your EHR, billing software, and scheduling system, to bring all of your communications together, enabling you to provide better care. 

Flex accounts also have several hosting options (local, in your own cloud environment, or in Twilio’s existing cloud platform), allowing you more control over your data.

While Flex is a great option, those unfamiliar with contact center software may still need some developer help with implementation.

Price: Free trial available. Plan pricing is product dependent. Visit Twilio’s site for more pricing information.

5. Trillian

Best HIPAA-compliant messaging app for in-house communications.

Product Screenshot: Trillian

Those who have been around since the early days of instant messaging likely remember Trillian as the third-party app that allowed you to manage all of your messaging accounts — AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc. — from a single client. In more recent years, Trillian has focused on its own messaging platform, offering packages for both individual and business use.

One of the business solutions offered by Trillian is HIPAA-compliant messaging for clinical settings. It lets doctors, nurses, receptionists, medical billing teams, and call centers communicate quickly and securely through direct and group messaging. The service allows for messaging via text, audio, and video, and it provides options for screen and file sharing.

While this tool moves away from web chat and patient app recommendations, it’s still a worthwhile platform for medical offices to consider. Adding a real-time messaging solution to your internal team’s tech stack can help improve team collaboration, which can lead to better patient health outcomes. 

For those who think Trillian sounds interesting but still require an included patient solution, the platform has announced that it will bring secure SMS functionality to its health care offerings soon. This will allow you to securely share sensitive information with patients without needing an additional patient portal or application.

Price: Free trial available. Plans including HIPAA compliance start at $7.99/user per month (five-user minimum).

HIPAA-compliant texting apps worth considering

Though real-time communication is extremely valuable in health care environments, busy schedules mean that having the ability to share things asynchronously is also important. 

Here are some additional HIPAA-compliant chat apps that focus on text messaging:

6. TigerConnect

Best HIPAA-compliant texting service for clinical collaboration.

Product Screenshot: TigerConnect

TigerConnect is a company that provides communication and scheduling solutions to medical facilities of all sizes. Its four main product offerings focus on alarm and notification management, physician scheduling, patient engagement, and clinical collaboration, all of which seamlessly integrate with each other as well as with external software like EHR systems. 

The two TigerConnect products that support secure text messaging are the patient engagement software and the clinical collaboration platform. The patient engagement platform makes it easy to communicate with your patients before, during, and after their visits without the need for an additional account, app, or password. Patients receive an SMS message with a link to a secure messaging environment when health care providers need to communicate sensitive information.

The clinical collaboration platform allows for internal text-based messaging among different teams and departments. It also integrates with the patient engagement software to allow providers to communicate securely with patients without the need for a separate app.

The TigerConnect platform is HITRUST CSF certified and HIPAA compliant, making it a great option for both internal and patient-facing text communication.

Price: Contact for pricing.

7. Klara

Best HIPAA-compliant texting app for patient reminders.

Product Screenshot: Klara

Klara is a patient communications platform that helps medical practices communicate with patients via voice, web chat, or text messaging without the need for a separate patient portal or mobile app.

Providers can send patients messages via standard text message for communications not containing PHI. For encrypted contacts, patients will receive a link that directs them to the Klara platform. Providers can also enable call-to-text functionality to prompt patients to turn their call into a text message when it makes sense to do so, reducing hold times and increasing patient satisfaction.

Finally, Klara provides a good back-end experience for practice employees. They offer shared inboxes that put valuable patient information front and center, including voicemail transcripts and data pulled from your EHR, giving the team the context they need to provide the best care.

Price: Contact for pricing.

8. Spok

Best HIPAA-compliant texting platform for use across any device.

Spok’s Care Connect platform is designed to help streamline clinical communications and workflows. It has solutions for everything from on-call scheduling to secure messaging to call center software.

The platform’s secure messaging solution allows clinical teams to communicate using text, images, and videos, all while remaining HIPAA and PIPEDA compliant. You can specify which team members are permitted to access PHI, ensuring that each person only has the access they truly need to provide good care.

One of the more interesting aspects to Spok’s secure messaging is its ability to support HIPAA compliant texting across personal devices. Having a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that includes an option for secure texting helps give your team the flexibility they need to provide your patients with the best care, regardless of which device they are carrying — smartphone, tablet, or pager. 

Price: Contact for pricing.

HIPAA live chat and text messaging FAQs

Still have questions? Here are answers to common questions surrounding the implementation of HIPAA-compliant communication channels like live chat and text messaging.

What makes a chat or texting platform HIPAA compliant?

While not all messaging services are HIPAA compliant, many can be configured to meet the law’s requirements. Here are some things to look for.

  • Robust data security: Electronic data must be encrypted, and any hosting services used by your chat or texting provider must also provide a high level of physical security.

  • Reliable uptime: Patients must have reliable access to their ePHI (electronic protected health information), meaning you need to ensure that any provider you choose is dependable.

  • Data location: Data must be stored in the U.S. to be HIPAA compliant.

  • Access restrictions: Chat and texting platforms should offer ways to protect access to PHI, such as 2FA, IP restrictions, SSL certificates, etc.

  • Business associate agreements (BAA): The chat or texting solution you choose should be willing to sign a BAA with your company. 

Keep in mind that following the guidelines above does not in and of itself make your organization or your messaging solution HIPAA compliant. Always consult with an expert when setting up new systems for your organization.

More information about HIPAA requirements can be found on the Health and Human Services website.

Does HIPAA apply to websites?

Yes, HIPAA compliance is required of any website where a HIPAA-covered entity (providers, insurance companies, etc.) may collect, process, store, or disseminate ePHI.

How do I make my website HIPAA-compliant?

If your practice or health organization is considered a covered entity, here are some of the steps you’ll need to take to ensure that your website is HIPAA-compliant:

  • Create a plan for how your organization will handle the management and transmission of PHI.

  • When it’s time to build your site, choose a HIPAA-compliant web host.

  • Use a SSL certificate to keep your site safe.

  • Sign BAAs with any third-party services your site may utilize, such as a live chat platform.

  • Ensure that data from web forms, chat services, email, etc., is encrypted.

  • Restrict access to PHI and provide training to those who may encounter it.

Just like with the steps listed above for HIPAA-compliant messaging, be sure to consult with an expert when determining if your organization is taking all of the required steps to maintain HIPAA compliance.

Is SMS texting HIPAA compliant?

Generally speaking, SMS text messaging is not considered HIPAA compliant. While there are certain situations where it can be done, it is better to use a HIPAA-compliant text messaging app as your solution.

These types of apps include features like encryption and access and audit controls, and they store their data within the U.S. and will be willing to sign a BAA with your company. These safeguards will help ensure that your organization is meeting HIPAA security rules.

As with the other channels mentioned in this post, be sure to consult with an expert when setting up your texting solution to ensure that you are doing everything necessary to comply with HIPAA standards.

Choosing the best HIPAA compliant messaging solution for you

Live chat and text messaging are communication channels that can provide many benefits to providers and patients alike. But if you're a healthcare professional, HIPAA regulations need to be observed to keep patient information secure.

If you’re ready to get started with live chat, consider booking a demo to learn how Help Scout can help you meet the evolving needs of your patients and community.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.