On December 28, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a clarifying memorandum on texting of patient information among healthcare providers. The memorandum made it clear that CMS does not permit the texting of orders by physicians or other health care providers to a member of the care team. This practice is not in compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation, which require that hospitals maintain an accurate and complete medical record for each inpatient and outpatient, and that records be retained. Further, texting information to a cellphone does not comply with the mandate that hospitals have procedures for ensuring the confidentiality of patient records.
CMS did state that texting patient information other than orders among members of a health care term is permitted if it is accomplished through a secure platform.
Note that the new CMS pronouncement is at odds with the previous guidance published by the Joint Commission. In May, 2016, the Joint Commission issued an update which allowed texting of orders as long as a secure text messaging platform was used and there was compliance with certain documentation and security standards, policies and procedures. According to CMS, 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.
Barclay and Damon LLP encourages all providers, practices and facilities to review their text messaging policies to ensure compliance with the new position outlined by CMS.