Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

Policy News

Text Messaging Ban Reinstated for Providers

The Joint Commission is delaying its decision enabling doctors to use the mHealth platform to communicate with each other, saying it needs to set better standards.

By Eric Wicklund

- Federal officials are once again banning healthcare providers from using text messaging tools until at least late this year.

The Joint Commission, which lifted its ban on text messaging this past May, has announced that it needs more time to “ensure a safe implementation” of text messaging guidelines. It now hopes to have those guidelines in place to lift the ban by the end of September.

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will collaborate with The Joint Commission on the development of additional guidance for text orders to ensure congruency with the Medicare Conditions of Participation,” the agency announced in its online newsletter last week. “The Joint Commission and CMS will develop a comprehensive series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents to assist healthcare organizations with the incorporation of text orders into their policies and procedures. This guidance information is designed to supplement the recommendations in the May 2016 Perspectives article permitting the use of secure text messaging platforms to transmit orders.”

The commission had enacted the ban in 2011, asking healthcare providers to refrain from texting orders on patient care, treatment or services to other healthcare providers. But earlier this year, officials said they’d seen enough secure text messaging platforms on the market to be convinced that clinicians could use the platform safely.

In lifting the ban in May, the commission set forth a number of guidelines for using text messaging. A secure service, it said, must include a secure sign-on process; encrypted messaging; delivery and read receipts; date and time stamp; customized message retention time frames; and a specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders.

In addition, the commission said any healthcare provider allowing text messaging should comply with Medication Management Standard MM.04.01.01, which establishes a protocol for medication orders and steps to take when an order is unclear or incomplete.

The commission also urged providers to determine if texted orders are automatically entered into the patient’s electronic health record or entered manually. For guidance, it refers providers to the Provision of Care, Treatment and Services Standard PC.02.01.03 and Record of Care, Treatment and Services Standard RC.02.03.07. For guidelines on the use of mobile devices, it advises contacting the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

The commission also said it would be “assessing the need to further delineate the expectations for secure text messaging platforms and policies and procedures for texted orders within the accreditation standards.”

Dig Deeper:

What the Joint Commission’s Guidance on Texting Means for Physicians

Secure Text Messaging Study Shows Clinical Benefits

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