In November 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services established the Department-wide Text4Health Task Force to among other things identify ongoing initiatives and proposals for feasible new projects which would deliver health information and resources to users’ fingertips via their mobile phones. The Task Force announced recommendations on September 19 to support health text messaging and mobile health programs, which include addressing the privacy and security concerns inherent in texting.

The Task Force acknowledged in its recommendations some critical facts driving the need for guidance in this area:

  • Approximately 2.2 trillion text messages were sent in the U.S. in 2010.
  • Text messaging is particularly prevalent among teenagers, with nearly 90% of teenagers who have cell phones reporting that they use text messaging.
  • A growing body of empirical studies suggests that the use of mobile phone text messaging can be effective in improving health behaviors and health outcomes.

The recommendations note that text messaging programs may be subject to numerous privacy and security laws, including the privacy and security regulations under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Additional guidance in this area would be welcomed as many health care providers look to use developing technologies, including texting, to deliver their services.