Joint Commission Restores Texting Ban Temporarily

Ken Terry

July 27, 2016

The Joint Commission has temporarily restored its ban on texting orders while it works with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop additional guidance for hospitals.

The new guidance, which the Joint Commission expects to release in September, will "ensure congruency with the Medicare Conditions of Participation," according to an announcement in the Joint Commission Online newsletter.

"The Joint Commission has determined that additional guidance is required to ensure a safe implementation involving the secure texting of orders for those organizations desiring to employ technology supporting this practice," the statement said. "The Joint Commission and CMS will develop a comprehensive series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents to assist health care organizations with the incorporation of text orders into their policies and procedures."

In May, the Joint Commission rescinded a 5-year ban on the texting of orders. Henceforth, the hospital accreditation organization said, licensed practitioners would be able to text orders if they used a secure text messaging platform and included the required components of an order.

When the Joint Commission banned text ordering in 2011, the organization was concerned about the use of unsecure text messaging. It also noted that texting applications were unable to verify the identity of the person sending the text or to retain the original message to validate the information entered into the medical record.

However, the Joint Commission said in May, the technology had advanced since then. Secure texting applications were now available, and their secure sign-on process now ensured that only authorized individuals could send and receive orders.

But before healthcare organizations allowed text ordering, the Joint Commission stated, they would have to implement a secure messaging platform that included a secure sign-on process, encrypted messaging, delivery and read of receipts, date and time stamp, customized message retention time frames, and a specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders. They would also have to consider how text orders could be documented in a patient's electronic health record.

At that time, the Joint Commission said it would release further guidance in June.

Little research has been done on the impact of texting on clinical outcomes in hospitals. But a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that secure text messaging can help reduce lengths of hospital stays without increasing readmissions.

Secure texting services have also been integrated with leading electronic health records, helping to ease one of the Joint Commission's earlier concerns about text messaging.


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