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Here's how WhatsApp could disrupt healthcare

By BI Intelligence on 01 September 2016


WhatsApp’s global cross-platform rollout of end-to-end encryption could incentivize more US doctors to use the messaging service to communicate with patients or colleagues, according to Cello Health Insight (cited by Fortune).

This could vastly improve the reach and speed of communication between doctors and patients.

Just 4% of doctors in the US use the chat app to communicate with other doctors or patients. The low adoption rate is mostly out of concern about violating Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations. In other markets where regulations aren't as severe, such as Brazil and China, the use of WhatsApp among doctors is much more prevalent. In Brazil, roughly 90% of doctors use the app to communicate with patients. There are more than 100 million WhatsApp users in Brazil, making the chat app a powerful tool for reaching patents.

The use of WhatsApp in healthcare makes sense for a number of reasons:

  • It’s a safe and secure communication portal. End-to-end encryption makes it extremely difficult for anyone other than the participants of an interaction to gain access to message contents. In fact, the technology is “about one of the best safeguards you can have in place,” according to health data attorney Katie Kenney.
  • It’s everywhere. The proliferation of WhatsApp, and chat apps in general, means it could vastly improve the reach of health warnings and the like. WhatsApp was integral in tracking the spreading of the recent Zika virus outbreak, Cello notes. Doctors used the service to share symptoms they were seeing, as well as babies’ CT scans.

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