Doctor visit text reminders violate patient privacy: health board

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Doctor visit text reminders violate patient privacy: health board

Text message reminders for appointments with doctors or dentists may soon be a thing of the past in Sweden.


The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) have found them to be in breach of their rules on patient confidentiality.

“It is against our rules. The texts contain patient information and must therefore be handled securely,” Anders Printz of the National Board of Health and Welfare said to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Today, many health care providers in Sweden use text messages to remind patients of looming appointments. But now this will have to cease. At least for the time being.

The rules apply to both dentists' and doctors' appointments and it makes no difference if the patient has agreed to be contacted by text message.

The National Board of Health and Welfare argue that because the traffic is not encrypted there is no way of making sure that the texts reach the right person.

“It is unfortunate really. Text message reminders have proven to work really well for health care providers to ensure that their patients remember their appointments. We are looking into ways to how exceptions may be made,” Printz told DN.

The Swedish Public Dental Service (Folktandvården) is one health care provider that has made good use of text message reminders. They think that the reasoning around text messages is surprising.

“It seems strange that it wouldn’t be allowed to send text messages to those patients that have agreed to it. If they give us their phone number we are allowed to phone them,” Irene Smedberg of the Public Dental Service said to DN.


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