Can I text it to you? 

CMS Clarifies When Texting Patient Information among Healthcare Providers is Compliant

In a December 28, 2017 Survey & Certification Memorandum, the Director of the Survey and Certification Group provided clarification of CMS’ position regarding texting patient information among healthcare providers.  The clarification arose amidst rumors that CMS was to propose a ban on text messaging platforms within healthcare institutions.  The new guidance now mirrors the current stance of the Joint Commission.

Director David Wright clarified that CMS prohibits the use of text messaging as it relates to patient orders. “The practice of texting orders from a provider to a member of the care team is not in compliance with the Conditions of Participation (CoPs) or Conditions for Coverage (CfCs).“ The letter reiterates that CoPs are required for maintenance of medical records and content. All medical records must be maintained in their original format for five years; and all practitioner orders must be maintained in the medical records.  As a result, the practice of texting orders does not comply with CMS hospital CoPs.  The Wright letter notes that Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is the preferred method for submitting orders.

However, CMS clarified that disseminating patient information via text message is permissible when texting via a secure messaging platform.  In his letter Mr. Wright states: “CMS recognizes that the use of texting as a means of communication with other members of the healthcare team has become an essential and valuable means of communication among the team members.  In order to be compliant with the CoPs or CfCs, all providers must utilize and maintain systems/platforms that are secure, encrypted, and minimize the risks to patient privacy and confidentiality as per HIPAA regulations and the CoPs or CfCs.”

CMS’ clarification is consistent with The Joint Commission’s December, 2016 newsletter which stated that Computerized Provider Order Entry is the preferred method for submitting orders.  The 2016 newsletter also stated that orders via secure text are not permissible.

In light of this guidance, Advis is encouraging clients to review policies and protcols pertaining to secure text messaging.  We have vast experience with regulatory and certification matters, including compliance with this recent CMS clarification regarding the texting of patient information among healthcare providers.  For additional clarification or sample policies, give us a call at 708-478-7030.

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