The Joint Commission has lifted its five-year ban on clinicians using smartphones to send orders via text message. In the May copy of its Perspectives newsletter, the Joint Commission announced that the text message ban has been lifted with immediate effect, although there is one caveat. A secure text messaging platform must be used.
The ban on text messaging was first introduced in 2011. Clinicians were prohibited from sending orders relating to patient care, treatment, or services to other health care providers. The ban was introduced as the Joint Commission had serious concerns over security. Standard text messages are unsecured and could possibly be intercepted by individuals unauthorized to view the message content. Standard text messages also lack authentication controls to verify the identity of the message sender and recipient. Text messages also do not allow messages to be easily stored. This causes problems when verifying the information entered in medical records.
Five years ago messaging technology did not incorporate the necessary controls to ensure the safety and security of transmitted information. However, the situation now is very different. Numerous secure text messaging platforms have been developed that incorporate all of the necessary security controls to ensure confidential information can be sent securely.
Some secure messaging platform providers have long been campaigning for a lifting of the Joint Commission ban on test messages. News of the lifting of the ban has been well received by healthcare providers and developers of secure text messaging platforms such as TigerText.
Four years ago, TigerText CEO and co-founder Brad Brooks wrote an article for Becker’s Review calling for the Joint Commission ban on text messaging to be lifted. Brooks – along with TigerText co-founder Jeffrey Evans – argued at the time that there was no longer any need to have the ban in place as secure text messaging platforms were available that allow information to be transmitted securely. The pair were arguing back then that $150 billion was being wasted on outdated communication technology and inefficient work practices. Money that could be put to far better uses, such as improving healthcare services or even cybersecurity.
On hearing the announcement of the lifting of the Joint Commission ban on text messaging, Brooks said “We welcome the Joint Commission’s pronouncement to allow physician orders through secure texting.”
The Joint Commission said that in order for a text messaging platform to be used to communicate order it must feature end to end encryption, feature a secure sign-on process, support read and delivery receipts, use date and time stamps on messages, have the facility to allow retention time frames to be set, and for contact lists to be created for individuals who have been authorized to receive and record text message orders. Healthcare providers electing to use secure text messaging for orders must also comply with Medication Management Standard MM.04.01.01. Healthcare providers should also develop policies and procedures for text message orders.