CMS: Providers Can Text, Just Not Medical Orders

HCPro Staff, January 3, 2018

After 'texting is not permitted' confusion, CMS clarifies when secure messaging apps are appropriate.

By Brian Ward

This post original appeared in HCPro's Accreditation Insider, January 2, 2017.

CMS is clearing up recent confusion on what medical providers can text each other. The agency confirmed care team members are allowed to text patient information over a secure messaging app. However, texting medical orders is still verboten.

Some providers have taken to secure messaging platforms as a way to contact providers during emergency, to consult on medical cases, or send photos of the patient. The confusion started on December 18 after an article by the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) cited emails CMS had sent to two hospitals saying that “texting is not permitted.” People thought this meant “texting is never permitted” instead of “texting medical orders isn’t permitted.”

“Secure texting is an integral part of a community platform for organizations,” one manager told the HCCA. “If you pull secure texting out of that pathway, you have disrupted a huge chain of communications that will have a broader effect.”

Luckily, CMS explained this wasn’t the case in its newest S&C memo, and that it knows the value of instant messaging in the workplace.

“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,” wrote David R. Wright, director of CMS’ Survey and Certification Group.

“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. It is expected that providers/organizations will implement procedures/processes that routinely assess the security and integrity of the texting systems/platforms that are being utilized, in order to avoid negative outcomes that could compromise the care of patients.”

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