The Joint Commission has issued a statement indicating that health care professionals should not text patient orders. It reads:
“It is not acceptable for physicians or licensed independent practitioners to text orders for patients to the hospital or other healthcare setting. This method provides no ability to verify the identity of the person sending the text and there is no way to keep the original message as validation of what is entered into the medical record.”
I was alerted to this statement by an iHealthBeat article on the topic, which quotes a couple of experts who note that texting has security, privacy and reliability problems that make it unsuitable for critical issues.
I understand the downsides but I’d be interested to learn more about what’s driving the use of texting for orders — if there is in fact such a trend. My guess is that younger physicians in particular are used to texting in their personal lives, finding it convenient, immediate, reliable, concise and likely to be read, acknowledged and acted on quickly. Add to that the fact that texting can easily be done from personal mobile devices and the appeal becomes pretty clear.
It used to be broadly accepted that doctors didn’t like using information technology, but a more likely explanation is that they have an aversion to clunky systems that slow them down and load them up with administrative work that is more suited to administrative support staff. Doctors are big users of smartphones and tablets in their personal lives and have started to bring their own devices and apps into the workplace. It’s fine for the Joint Commission to guard against the downside of such activities, but health care IT providers and health system leaders would do well on how to harness physician enthusiasm for better ways of working and incorporate that input into innovative products and policies that meet the rigorous needs of the health care workplace.
David E. Williams is co-founder of MedPharma Partners LLC, strategy consultant in technology enabled health care services, pharma, biotech, and medical devices. Formerly with BCG and LEK. He writes regularly at Health Business Blog, where this post first appeared.