Several recently announced changes in federal policy, which will be featured in this Blog, signal that Health Information Technology (Health IT) remains integral to the modernization of health care.

Late in November 2017, the CMS Survey & Certification Group (SCG) sent e-mails to two hospitals stating, “texting is not permitted,” even for secure text applications. “After meeting with vendors regarding these products, it was determined they cannot always ensure the privacy and confidentiality of PHI [protected health information] of the information being transmitted,” according to the e-mail reported by Report on Medicare Compliance. The ban surprised many in the health care accreditation and compliance community, particularly after JCAHO solicited public comment and developed a position statement supporting the use of secure texting. As a result, JCAHO reversed this position on December 22, 2017 issuing the “Clarification: Use of Secure Text Messaging for Patient Care Orders Is Not Acceptable.” Many hospital compliance officers indicated that secure texting and paging was an integral part of their secure communication platform, and that this decision would negatively disrupt their critical patient communication pathway.

Then on December 28, 2018, the Director of CMS Survey & Certification Group released S&C 18-10-ALL reversing the e-mail position by concluding:

  • Texting patient information among members of the health care team is permissible if accomplished through a secure platform.
  • Texting of patient orders is prohibited regardless of the platform utilized.
  • Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE) is the preferred method of order entry by a provider.

While CMS S&C now supports secure texting, it does not support the use of texting of patient orders.