Citing burdens on clinicians that could lead to treatment delays, the Joint Commission said its ban on doctors using text messages to order treatments will stay in place for the time being.

The Joint Commission briefly lifted the ban last spring, but then temporarily reinstated it over the summer to allow the Commission more time to work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The groups are working out guidelines for how doctors can use messaging apps and texting to make orders. However, through those conversations, the agencies agreed that until several concerning issues were fixed as texting technology continues to evolve, it is best for the ban to remain in place for now, according to the announcement (PDF). 

The agencies identified a number of concerns that led to the decision:

  • Using texts or other messaging apps to order treatments could increase the burden on nurses or other clinical staff who would be responsible for inputting such data into electronic health records
  • Talking in-person allows for easier clarifications if there are questions about an order, and allows for better confirmation of directives
  • If there are any clinical decision support alerts triggered during the EHR process, the clinician inputting the information into the system will have to take time to contact the ordering physician to resolve the issue, potentially causing treatment delays

The commission and CMS will continue to monitor advancements in texting to further evaluate the ban and other guidelines in the future, according to the announcement. New advancements in texting technology led to the ban being lifted last year, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Research has found that secure text messaging may be an effective method of communication, perhaps even better than traditional paging. One such study, published last April in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that a hospital that switched to a secure texting system saw a decrease in the average length of stay, though readmission rates were not impacted.