For the past five years the Joint Commission has banned the use of mHealth communications for sending orders; however, the Joint Commission text messaging ban has now been lifted at long last. Healthcare organizations can now send orders using secure text messaging platforms and do not have to rely on outdated communication channels.
The announcement of the lifting of the Joint Commission text messaging ban was made in the May edition of the Perspectives newsletter. Text messaging will now be permitted, provided a platform is used that meets the Commission’s guidelines.
Standard text messages will continue to be banned as SMS messages are not secure. SMS messages can be intercepted and read by third parties, the messages can be stored on any number of carriers’ servers, there are no authentication controls to ensure that only the intended recipient can view messages, and the original messages cannot easily be retained for validating data entered into the medical record.
Clinicians and other medical practitioners may use secure messaging platforms for sending orders if the chosen platform features end-to-end encryption, has a secure sign on process, delivery and read receipts, time and date stamps, and allows message retention time frames to be set. The messaging platform must also allow a contact list to be created containing the numbers of individuals authorized to receive and record orders.
The Joint Commission text messaging ban was introduced because text messages lack the necessary security controls to ensure data remains secured and cannot be viewed by unauthorized individuals. Since the Joint Commission text messaging ban was introduced, a number of secure messaging platforms have been developed that incorporate all the necessary controls to ensure data is safeguarded at all times.
The TigerText secure text messaging platform incorporates all the necessary controls to comply with the Joint Commissions guidelines. In fact, TigerText also offers a $1,000,000 guarantee that the platform complies with HIPAA regulations.
The Joint Commission has stated that before a secure text messaging platform is used to send orders healthcare organizations need to develop an attestation that documents the platform’s capabilities. Healthcare organizations must also perform a risk assessment and develop a risk management strategy.
It is essential that organizations develop policies that cover the use of the secure text messaging platform. Those policies must cover the situations when text messaging is appropriate and when the communication medium should not be used. All staff must be trained on the policies to ensure they understand the rules covering the use of secure text messaging and the use of text messages should also be monitored by healthcare organizations.
TigerText CEO Brad Brooks recently said, “We welcome the Joint Commission’s pronouncement to allow physician orders through secure texting.” TigerText has been calling for a lifting of the ban since 2012.