Joint Commission prohibits secure texting for patient care orders

In its most recent update on the practice, the Joint Commission banned the use of secure text messaging to transmit patient care orders.

The organization has been wrestling with the issue since 2011, when the commission determined the technology available for text messaging was not secure enough to safely permit the practice. In the May 2016 issue of the commission's journal Perspectives, the accrediting body determined the technology had advanced far enough to resolve the data privacy and security concerns cited in the 2011 assessment.

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In the December 2016 issue of the journal, the Joint Commission updated the guidance after collaborating with CMS to assess the safety of the practice.

Here are the recommendations regarding secure text messaging for patient orders developed by CMS and the Joint Commission.

• All healthcare facilities prohibit the use of unsecured text messaging from personal mobile devices for sharing protected health information.

• Computerized provider order entry is the preferred method for submitting orders because it permits providers to directly enter orders into the electronic health record.

• If a CPOE or written order cannot be delivered, a verbal communication is acceptable. However, the practice of relying on verbal orders should be used sparingly and monitored closely to ensure they are relied upon only in appropriate situations.

• Secure text messaging is currently prohibited for the transmission of patient care orders. Among the reasons for the ban, CMS and the Joint Commission said the communicative platform could result in an increased burden on nurses to enter text orders into the EHR and the process does not allow for the real-time confirmation of the order, among other safety concerns.

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