More clinicians are texting, but far fewer hospitals offer a secure messaging app

texting (Pixabay)
Although most clinicians still use pagers, text messaging is gaining traction despite security concerns.

As more clinicians gravitate toward text messaging to communicate patient information, hospitals aren’t keeping pace with appropriate security protocols.

Pagers continue to be the most popular form of communication among hospital-based clinicians, but more than half are using standard text messaging for patient care-related communication, according to a survey published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

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However, just 27% of respondents said their organization had implemented a secure messaging application that some clinicians were using. Just 7% said most clinicians were using a hospital-issued messaging app.

Physicians have previously underscored the “unprecedented convenience” of text messaging while acknowledging the myriad privacy concerns that go along with transmitting unencrypted information. Researchers have also raised patient safety concerns associated with secure messaging apps that run into connectivity delays and network latency.

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After waffling for most of last year, the Joint Commission reaffirmed its ban on texting orders in January. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT notes that most text messages are not secure, but clinicians may be able to use text messaging if their hospital conducts a risk analysis and implements a third-party solution.

Still, physicians are often faced with the dilemma of responding to patients who text them. The American Medical Association is currently considering expanding its advice on email communication with patients to include text messaging.