Joint Commission ends ban on clinician text use with caveats

Better messaging security technologies are prompting the Joint Commission to end its ban on clinician use of such tools. Healthcare providers and caretakers can now use text to send patient orders, but only if such tools meet the commission's requirements, the commission announces in the May edition of Joint Commission Perspectives.

Those requirements include specific security components, standards to be met and quality assurance activities. Providers must also document the text platform's features, define texting order use and track how often text is used for making orders.

The ban dated back to 2011, when the commission issued a two-sentence response to a frequently asked question on its website. 

"[I]t is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners to text orders for patients to the hospital or other healthcare setting," the statement said. "This method provides no ability to verify the identity of the person sending the text and there is no way to keep the original message as validation of what is entered into the medical record."

A study published in March in the Journal of General Internal Medicine suggests communication via secure text messaging can help providers to improve patient outcomes and lengths of hospital stays. For the study, researchers, led by Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., an assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management in Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and The Wharton School, examined 11,500 patients in two hospitals. One hospital transitioned from a traditional paging system to secure text messages on select floors and saw its average length of stay fall from six to 5.4 days in a month, while the average didn't budge on similar floors at the second hospital that kept the paging system.

Over a year, after controlling for external factors such as time trends and patient profiles, Patel and his team found patients' stays were about 14 percent shorter when their provider used the secure messaging system. However, researchers found the communication system had no effect on readmission rates.

For more information:
- here's the Joint Commissions Perspectives article