The Joint Commission (TJC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) took a firm stance against physicians texting patient orders in a recent joint statement, clarifying that it is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners to text orders for patient care, treatment or services to hospitals or other healthcare providers. Instead, computerized provider order entry (CPOE) should be the preferred method for submitting orders, and in the event that a CPOE or written order cannot be submitted, a verbal order is acceptable.

The new guidance rescinds TJC’s May 2016 guidance, which permitted utilization of secure text messaging platforms, but was suspended a month later to permit TJC to collaborate with CMS. The results of this TJC/CMS collaboration were manifested in the December 2016 publication, in which TJC prohibits the use of secured text orders and promotes the use of CPOE instead.

TJC also said that all healthcare organizations should have policies prohibiting the use of unsecured text messaging for communicating protected health information. TJC and CMS strongly urged providers to utilize CPOE to ensure accuracy and allow direct order entry into the electronic health record. While permitting verbal orders, the guidance cautions that they should be used infrequently and only in instances when using CPOE is impossible or impracticable.