The Joint Commission recently announced a change in its policies whereby it will now allow providers to communicate patient orders via text message. The policy applies to all Joint Commission accreditation programs. While the change in policy by the Joint Commission provides added flexibility to physicians and other health care providers, there are several items that should be considered prior to adopting such practice on a day-to-day basis. In other words, before you hop on your cellphone and start texting patient orders through your "messages" app, there are a few things you should know regarding the Joint Commission's change in policy.
The Joint Commission's new policy allows health care providers to text orders, as long as such is done in accordance with applicable professional standards of practice, laws, regulations, policies and procedures. Further, a secure text messaging platform must be used. A secure text messaging platform is one that includes the following features: secure sign-on process, encrypted messaging, delivery and read receipts, date and time stamp, customized message retention time frames, and specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders. Standard text messaging through your "messages" app will not currently satisfy these requirements. In addition, keep in mind that any platform chosen will also need to comply with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, and their implementing regulations. (As an aside, you will need a Business Associate Agreement in place with the platform vendor if such vendor has the capability to access patient information.)
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