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In the fast-paced realm of healthcare, effective communication among healthcare team members is essential to quality patient care. The advent of technology, particularly texting, has revolutionized the way healthcare professionals communicate. However, with innovation comes the responsibility to maintain compliance and safeguard patient information.

CMS Recognizes Texting Patient Information and Orders in Healthcare Communication

The memorandum released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in January 2018 marked a pivotal moment in acknowledging the significance of texting in healthcare communication. While recognizing its efficiency, CMS raised concerns about compliance with the Conditions of Participation (CoPs). Key issues included record retention, privacy, confidentiality, security, and system integrity.

At that time, many Psychiatric Hospitals and Behavioral Health Care & Human Services  providers lacked the infrastructure to incorporate secure texting platforms into their medical record systems. This created a dilemma for healthcare providers who relied on texting for communication but were constrained by regulatory or accreditation requirements.

HIPAA Compliant Secure Texting is Permissible

The subsequent discussion highlighted the importance of adhering to the CoPs outlined in 42 CFR 482.24 and 485.638, emphasizing the need for accurate, prompt, and secure record maintenance. While Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) remained the preferred method, advancements in secure texting platforms offered viable alternatives for transferring data into Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

The CMS QSO-24-05 memorandum, dated February 8, 2024, clarified that texting patient information and orders is permissible if conducted through a HIPAA-compliant secure texting platform (STP) and in compliance with CoPs. However, it stressed the importance of maintaining security, encryption, and integrity in author identification to safeguard patient privacy and confidentiality. The healthcare accrediting bodies, including TJC, DNV, CHIQ, ACHC, and CARF have all integrated this CMS guidance into their own interpretation of texting requirements.

Providers were encouraged to regularly check to ensure the security and integrity of texting systems. Furthermore, CMS expected providers to choose platforms that meet HIPAA Security Rule and HITECH Act Amendment requirements, in addition to CoPs.

In conclusion, while texting has become an indispensable tool in healthcare communication, ensuring compliance and patient safety remains paramount. By embracing secure texting platforms and adhering to regulatory and accreditation guidelines, healthcare providers can leverage technology to enhance communication while upholding the highest standards of care.

Barrins & Associates Consultation

When we conduct our Mock Surveys and Continuous Readiness Consultations, we always incorporate an evaluation of the compliant use of texting when communicating patient information and orders. We also share our resources on best practices and survey readiness strategies. As always, we will continue to keep you posted on the best solutions for ongoing compliance.

Barrins & Associates – “25+ Years of Expertise, Tailored Solutions for Your Success in Healthcare”