Joint Commission reverses stand, allows text messaging

Technology is secure for orders, says agency, as long as safeguards are used.

The Joint Commission has rescinded a 2011 policy that prohibited physicians or licensed independent practitioners from texting orders for patient care, treatment or services to a hospital or other care settings.

At the time of the policy, the Commission cited concerns about sending unsecured text messages via personal mobile devices because messaging at that time did not verify the identity of the person sending the message or retain the message to validate it was entered into the medical record.

Now, technology is more mature and the commission has lifted the texting ban. “Licensed independent practitioners or other practitioners in accordance with professional standards of practice, law and regulation, and policies and procedures may text orders as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included,” according to a statement published in the May 2016 Joint Commission Perspectives newsletter, available here.

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For texting to meet Comission requirements, the messaging software must support a secure sign-on process with encrypted messaging; delivery and read receipts along with a date and time stamp; customized message retention time frames; and offer a contact list with individuals authorized to receive and record orders.

While the commission further refines the new policy, it advises healthcare organizations adopting it to develop an attestation documenting the capabilities of the secure messaging platform, define when text orders are or are not appropriate, monitor how frequently texting is used for orders, assess compliance with texting policies and procedures, develop a risk management strategy and conduct a risk assessment, and train staff and practitioners on the policies and procedures.

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