Secure texting pitfalls can hurt patient care

doc texting
A slow connection could cause harmful delays when physicians text critical orders.

Connectivity delays and network latency continue to be significant barriers to secure texting between clinicians, an issue that creates the opportunity for patient harm, according to several IT executives at a Texas health system.

Although text ordering may be convenient for physicians during routine patient care, network connectivity concerns can hamper the immediacy of those orders, creating potential delays for physicians who rely on immediate communication while caring for critically ill patients, executives with Christus Health in Dallas wrote in Perspectives in Health Information Management.

After waffling between whether or not to ban secure texting, last month The Joint Commission officially reaffirmed its stance to prohibit secure texting until the accreditor could address several concerns, including whether in-person communication is a better pathway for clinicians to clarify orders.

However, some hospitals have found that secure text messaging platforms actually improve communication and shorten hospital stays.

After reviewing 19 vendor websites offering secure texting platforms, Christus executives found that 84% said their product could be used to transmit critical patient information, but they questioned whether texting alone would be a safe and efficient way to transmit time-sensitive orders. They also noted there are few options available to integrate text orders into patient EHRs.

“In high-acuity care settings, in which text delays due to latency could engender a risk of patient harm, clinicians should err on the side of safety and rely on telephonic or face-to-face communication, or mixed text and telephonic communication, to validate that all critical, time-sensitive information is received so it can be acted on,” they wrote, calling on The Joint Commission to consider network latency as it continues to evaluate its stance on secure text messaging.