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How Can Expanded Secure Text Messaging Affect Healthcare?

With the Joint Commission’s recent decision on secure text messaging options, healthcare providers can now send physician orders through such platforms.

- As the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare (JCAHO) recently changed its stance on using secure text messaging for sending physician orders, healthcare organizations now have expanded options when it comes to utilizing digital communications.

Secure text messaging could have hugely positive impact on providers

While the decision might not have all covered entities immediately adopting a secure text messaging platform – if they have not already done so – several experts in the field are excited about the move, saying that it is going to have a hugely positive effect on the industry.

“This has been a major friction point, or impediment to more comprehensively integrating and adopting messaging within the healthcare workflow,” according to TigerText CEO Brad Brooks. “This is really something that providers are basically organically gravitating to.”

When JCAHO first instituted the ban five years ago, healthcare secure text messaging options were relatively new, and had not fully disseminated into the industry. However, it went back and revisited the area, and has created guidelines around how healthcare organizations can securely transmit information and communicate.

For example, providers must develop an attestation documenting the capabilities of their secure text messaging platform and define specifically when texting is not appropriate for orders. There must also be a risk management strategy in place and risk assessments should be performed regularly.

The frequency of the secure texting should also be monitored, and staff members must be properly trained on all policies and procedures.

Furthermore, a healthcare organization needs to include the following in a secure service if it wants to utilize secure text messaging:

  • Have a secure sign-on process
  • Use encrypted messaging
  • Incorporate delivery and read receipts
  • Have date and time stamps
  • Customize message retention time frames
  • Have a specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders.

“Ultimately, what this does now is really open up the floodgates to all kinds of incredible improvements to be realized around healthcare workflow,” Brooks added.

TigerText Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Brooks agreed, saying that this is one step that moves things ahead to the way individuals live their lives normally outside of healthcare. It’s a way that’s efficient in communication.

From a provider’s perspective, orders are often given verbally or over the phone. Things can be lost in translation or simply misheard, he said.

However, a key benefit through secure text messaging is that a doctor can see that a message is delivered and there is even a time stamp, which is reassuring.

“It’s far safer for the patient because you’re putting in a written order precisely what you want, and [the receiving caregiver] gets that.”

Dr. Brooks explained that it’s similar to how planes are directed at an airport. Air traffic control team members will ask pilots to verbally repeat directions on taxiing down a runway to ensure that the pilot understands where to go. Should an accident happen, there is a record on tape of the pilot saying where he or she was going to move.

In healthcare, there are extremely serious things that a physician could call in. If there is a mistake, patient care could easily be compromised.

“It’s far safer for the patient, far safer for the liability of the physician, and more importantly, it’s very efficient,” Dr. Brooks stated.

In the long-term, Brad Brooks maintained that there is greater opportunity to more fully integrate the secure texting into the digital information systems that have been put in place into the healthcare setting. For example, EMRs, HIEs, and even lab systems all have a huge amount of information.

“Having the ability to connect those systems to the messenger in a comprehensive end to end workflow capability, the result of that is going to be incredible amount of time savings.”

Wider secure text messaging options can also assist with physician burnout and nurse burnout, he added. There will be less time spent on data entry or waiting for other staff members to return calls.

“This is a major step to allowing them to get back to what they really want to do, which is help patients and make people better,” he said. “And hopefully, tending to this notion, addressing this aspect of burnout we’re allowing them to be much more productive in their work day.”

Overall, healthcare providers will only benefit from the ability to increase workflow and create more efficient communication options, according to Dr. Brooks.

“If you look at healthcare today, there are massive amounts of data that are in digital form, and the ability to access the data is very siloed,” he explained. “[Secure text messaging] is the last mile of being able to take this data that is readily accessible, but difficult to access or work with, and use it in a way where it smooths out workflow and allows you interact with multiple people who are involved with patient care. You can get answers and avoid all the phone tag hassle, you can have a record of it, and just move people through the system in a way that’s far more efficient.”

The US healthcare system has a “very Archaean way of communication,” he added. Implementing secure text messaging for more aspects of healthcare will definitely improve the efficiency around communication.  

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