CMS clears up Texting Patient Info Policy

The CMS, after some confusion, cleared up matters related to texting patient information during the first week of January. It sent the necessary Survey & Certification Letter to clear any confusion. The communication stated that messages exchanged among clinicians could be permitted under a specific condition. The condition is that the platform for exchanging messages should be a secure one. The CMS stated that texting the patient orders across all platforms, specifically public and non-secure ones cannot be allowed under any conditions.

HCCA and Joint Commission stance

This clarification issued by CMS comes after a report written by Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) that was published on December 18. The report raised a few concerns regarding the center's policy. The latter now reflects the present stance of Joint Commission. The commission itself was wrung through multiple flip-flops on the same subject in 2016. David R. Wright, Group Director, CMS Survey and Certification, wrote to the directors of state survey agency that if the organization needs to be compliant with both Conditions for Coverage and Conditions of Participation, all the providers should maintain systems or platforms which can be deemed secure and encrypted. This arrangement will minimize patient privacy risks and also confidentiality risks as per the HiPAA regulations. It will also be in tandem with the Condition for Coverage and Condition of Participation. He further wrote that it is anticipated that organizations or providers will implement the processes or procedures which regularly assesses integrity and security of platforms or texting systems being used. This will avoid the negative outcomes which may compromise patient care.

No texting

The report by HCCA stated that the association wrote of a minimum of two hospitals having received emails from the CMS stating that texting will not be allowed even if the application was a secure one. The email correspondences buttressed its proof with meetings being held with vendors of secure texting apps. It also mentioned the section of Condition of Participation in Medicare concerning medical records retention. The confidentiality clause was cited as the factors in the no-texting decision taken by the center.

Robert Hudock, member, Epstein Becker & Green, stated in the report published by the HCAA that if the texting solutions are applicable for classified military applications, then it is good for hospitals as well. He added that a lack of security means going back to ancient times. Such stress on texting shows its important status as a resource when it comes to healthcare communication.

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