Secure text messaging is becoming more common in hospitals, but not all information concerning patients’ health should be transmitted using this method of communication. The Joint Commission just issued guidelines about secure text messaging and providers’ orders, and you need to make sure your facility is in compliance

Providers may find it convenient to text instructions about patient care to other doctors and nurses while they’re on the go. However, the Joint Commission doesn’t feel this is the best bet for ordering medications and other treatments for patients.

It’s even come out and said that it doesn’t support the transmission of orders via text messages – even if done using a secure text messaging platform.

Trouble with texts

A number of factors played a role in the Joint Commission’s current stance on secure text messaging for patient orders.

According to an announcement from the organization, the problem doesn’t necessary lie in data security, as most secure text messaging services designed for healthcare entities meet the mark in that regard. Rather, the agency has concerns about the impact of texting orders on patient safety because it adds extra steps to order entry.

Once a provider’s texts an entry to another doctor or nurse, someone must manually enter that order into the hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system. This increases the possibility for error, and it also adds additional administrative work to clinical staff members’ plates – which can negatively affect patients’ care.

Also, the staff member who’s entering the information into the EHR may need to clarify certain details or instructions about the order. And that’s difficult to obtain via text. If a provider doesn’t respond to a text question right away, it could lead to delays in treatment that could impact patients’ outcomes.

For offsite providers, the Joint Commission prefers the use of verbal orders, as they allow real-time communication between providers and clinical staff. That way, any questions or issues surrounding the order can be addressed right away.

But, the organization’s top preference for providers is the use of computerized provider order entry (CPOE) so they can directly enter their own orders for patients into the EHR. This is the best bet, as it boosts accuracy by cutting out the middle man.

It’s also helpful because EHRs often send out automatic alerts and recommendations to help providers double-check that their orders are the best option available for the patient, given the person’s medical history and existing conditions (such as medication allergies).

Offsite options

In some cases, offsite providers can access a hospital’s CPOE system because health IT vendors are making CPOE accessible through secure, encrypted apps for smartphones and tablets. More vendors are offering this option, so submitting orders will become easier for providers as time passes.

However, not every provider has this option just yet – and some may feel order information can be transmitted through text with no issues.

While the practice of communication via text has grown more common in health care, you need to make sure your providers aren’t using text messaging to submit orders for patients – and that they’re calling in these orders instead. Your hospital can also explore the use of secure CPOE apps to make this process easier for offsite and on-call providers.

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