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Joint Commission gets hip to text messaging

The Joint Commission, the independent nonprofit that functions as a sort of unofficial arm of government healthcare regulatory agencies, has essentially reversed its 2011 opinion on clinician text messaging.

In the May 2016 issue of its Joint Commission Perspectives newsletter, the commission updated its previous guidance on texting. The commission noted that secure text systems were not widely available when it published a 2011 FAQ stating it wasn’t acceptable for physicians and other clinicians to text orders for patient care or treatment to hospitals or other care settings..

“At the time, the technology available could not provide the safety and security necessary to adequately support the use of text messaging for orders,” the commission said.

But, “as technology has evolved, however, the number of secure text messaging platforms has increased,” the commission added.

The commission said that after conducting research it has decided to immediately revise its previous stance. Now, healthcare practitioners can text orders as long as they use secure messaging systems and meet certain requirements of an order.

Approved secure messaging systems must include these functions, according to the commission:

  • Secure sign-on
  • Encryption
  • Delivery and read receipts
  • Date and time stamp
  • Customized message retention time frames
  • Specified contact list for people authorized to receive orders

Organizations that use text orders should comply with medication management standards and also consider how text orders will be documented in patients’ health records and whether they integrate with EHRs.

Meanwhile, the commission advised organizations that allow texted orders to develop an attestation process to document the capabilities of their secure texting technology; define when text orders are appropriate; monitor frequency of texts and assess compliance; develop a risk management strategy and perform a risk assessment; and conduct training.

To sum up the commission’s new position on secure texting: it’s OK, under certain conditions.

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