Author–Kristi Perdue Hinkle

The month of May marked a huge step forward for enhancing patient care communications. The Joint Commission, which accredits healthcare organizations, reversed its long ban on physicians and other clinicians from using text messaging to place orders related to patient care. This announcement was made in the May edition of Perspectives, the commission’s source for changes to accreditations and certification standards. This decision is a long overdue approval of the use of modern communication practices already being utilized by most healthcare professionals today. However, now they are provided with specific guidance and requirements in order to meet compliance standards.

In its statement, the Joint Commission noted that it conducted new research to “better understand the capabilities of current texting platforms and has concluded that these platforms now offer the functionality to address previous concerns outlined.” These concerns came from a 2011 document issued by the Joint Commission. Additionally, the commission’s new policy states that, “Licensed independent practitioners or other practitioners, in accordance with professional standards of practice, law and regulation, and policies and procedures may text orders as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included.” These requirements include:

  • Secure sign-on process
  • Encrypted messaging
  • Delivery and receipts
  • Date and time stamp
  • Customized messaging retention time frames
  • Specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders
  • Compliance with the Medication Management Standard MM.04.01.01 – addressing the required elements of a complete medication order

What this means for patients and healthcare professionals

The commission’s decision is a landmark for the integration of innovative technology that drives more efficient, cost effective and secure patient care. The truth is, texting and mobile communications is what today’s digital landscape promises and what users demand – whether within the confines of work or as a patient in their day-to-day lives.

With approved guidance, healthcare professionals now have the opportunity to communicate securely via a secure text messaging platform verses relying on out outdated pagers or turning to non-secure, non-compliant applications or native SMS text on their phones. Secure text messaging for patient care will help eliminate extra steps of communication for home-health nurses, doctors and clinicians, making it easier to communicate with patient care team members stationed back at a hospital or doctor’s office. And, it will help streamline processes for the same patient care team members, enabling them to simply text patient care instructions or orders without having to call or otherwise meet face-to-face. Finally, and most crucial, the efficiency gained from text-based communications will help pave the way for quicker, more efficient and streamlined decisions, helping support improved patient outcomes.

With the vast benefits secure texting provides for patients and patient care teams, we expect to see secure mobile messaging become the norm for the healthcare industry – from hospital organizations to home healthcare providers to primary care physicians.

Vaporstream was built because we believe that all professionals – including healthcare professionals – should be able to efficiently communicate in a secure, confidential and compliant manner. As such, our ephemeral texting solution not only addresses all of the requirements outlined by the Joint Commission, it also takes security one step further – ensuring that messages do not remain on mobile devices or message servers once they are recorded to a patient’s electronic health record (EHR). This extra level of security significantly minimizes the potential risk of data getting into the wrong hands due to a lost, misplaced or stolen device. By using Vaporstream, healthcare organizations can rest assured that they can meet HIPAA compliance requirements while improving efficiency to provide superior patient care.

For more information on what this ruling means for the healthcare industry or how Vaporstream supports it, please contact us.