The Joint Commission recently clarified that patient care orders may not be transmitted by secure text message.  The Joint Commission initially prohibited the practice in 2011 but subsequently allowed practitioners to send orders through a secure text messaging system if certain conditions were met.   In this most recent clarification, The Joint Commission states that concerns remain even when using secure messaging platforms.

The clarification includes several recommendations developed by The Joint Commission in cooperation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  In addition to the ban on secure text messaging of patient orders, the Joint Commission’s recommendations include:

  • Every health care organization should have a policy that prohibits the use of unsecured text messaging from a personal device for communicating protected health information. The policy should be discussed during orientation of practitioners and staff.
  • Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is the preferred method for submitting orders. The clarification notes that there are CPOE applications offering secure, encrypted orders through smartphones and tablets.
  • A verbal order is acceptable when a CPOE or written order cannot be submitted. Verbal orders should be used in infrequently, and should be monitored to confirm that they are used only in those situations where CPOE or written orders would delay treatment, rather than for convenience.