Accreditor recognizes value of secure text messaging in healthcare environment

April 28, 2016


Joint Commission allows texting of orders

The Joint Commission has reversed its prohibition against texting orders for patient care, treatment, or services, signaling the accreditor’s recognition of technology’s disruptive impact on healthcare—and its powerful role in care delivery.

Effective immediately, prescribers may use a secure text messaging application to text such orders to the hospital or other health care settings “as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included,” the accreditor states in the May 2016 issue of its Perspectives newsletter.

This simple sentence, specifically calling out secure text messaging for healthcare, removes a cumbersome hurdle that’s been in place since 2011, when the Joint Commission clarified in an FAQ document that text messaging orders were “not acceptable.” The accreditor’s main concern back then was the lack of widely available texting messaging solutions for healthcare that were HIPAA compliant.

“At the time, the technology available could not provide the safety and security necessary to adequately support the use of text messaging for orders,” the entity formerly known as JCAHO explained this week.

But technology has evolved–and so have we. DrFirst has developed Backline a HIPAA-compliant text-messaging application, to enable secure communication that is patient-centered, instant and reliable.

“Secure text messaging platforms now offer the functionality to address our previous concerns about texting orders. As long as healthcare organizations implement one of these platforms and include the required components of an order, orders can be transmitted through text messaging,” Christina Cordero, project director at the Joint Commission’s department of standards and survey methods, recently told

And so, effective immediately, healthcare organizations can transmit orders via a HIPAA-compliant, secure text messaging platform, says the Joint Commission, as long as they comply with Medication Management Standard MM.04.01.01, and as long as the texting application features the following:

  • Secure sign-on process
  • Encrypted messaging
  • Delivery and read receipts
  • Date and time stamp
  • Customized message retention time frames
  • Specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders

Backline, our secure communications platform, meets all of these requirements.

Empowering prescribers to text orders is a seemingly small step that will positively impact patient safety, clinical workflow, and patient care. It turns a ubiquitous device—the smartphone—into an even more useful tool.

And it’s about time. Clinicians have long embraced texting as a more efficient way to communicate. Surveys indicate that most physicians and nurses use their smartphones for work. Many of them are texting, however many of those texts are not using the security features required by the Joint Commission.

With secure text messaging, healthcare workflow and patient care can be streamlined. In the past (and the present), if a critical lab abnormality was found, the lab phoned the nursing station to report the result. The nurse then tracked down the doctor, shared the result, and received a verbal medication order. These verbal orders are vulnerable to transcription errors.

Using secure texting in the healthcare environment, the lab can contact the doctor directly and instantly, and the doctor can securely send the order.

This small step will improve care coordination; reduce the risk of transcription errors and speed receipt of medication orders. It also underscores the importance of having a reliable, secure communication platform that fits seamlessly into clinician workflow.

About pkaufman

Schooled at MIT, Dr. Kaufman nurtured a strong interest in medical informatics while a Bowman Gray School of Medicine faculty member. After entering private practice he founded PiNK software in 1996 to produce EMR software, later becoming DrFirst’s chief medical officer upon its founding. He lectures nationally on various healthcare IT topics, and as a board certified gastroenterologist, he continues a limited clinical practice. Dr. Kaufman is a member of the Health IT Standards Committee, Privacy and Security Workgroup for ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology). Representing the American Gastroenterology Association’s (AGA), Dr. Kaufman is a delegate to the AMA and was the co-chair of the Physicians Electronic Health Record Consortium (PEHRC). He has participated on workgroups at CCHIT (stand-alone e-prescribing), HIMSS (e-prescribing), and NCPDP (e-prescribing).