This week The Joint Commission updated its position on texting orders. Effective immediately, physicians or licensed independent practitioners may text orders for care, treatment and services, “as long as a secure text messaging platform is used and the required components of an order are included.” (See the May 2016 issue of The Joint Commission newsletter for the full update.)
This is a tremendous step forward for healthcare communication, with enormous benefits for healthcare professionals and their patients. It’s also a direct result of the hard work by a team at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a Magnet-recognized facility and member of Avera Health, a regional healthcare family of 300 facilities.
Back in October of last year, a team at Avera McKennan submitted a white paper to The Joint Commission providing an overview of the hospital’s secure communication platform and making the case for sending orders via secure text messages on Voalte Platform. The Avera team and The Joint Commission then convened in a conference call in November to discuss Avera’s secure messaging platform in greater detail. In December, I met with The Joint Commission staff to demonstrate Voalte Platform and discuss how its features and capabilities could be used to support a secure, text-based workflow for orders.
Fast forward to this week, when The Joint Commission concluded that it is now acceptable for physicians to text patient orders using a secure text messaging platform! Obviously, for me personally, it was exciting to be part of this effort to improve patient care. For Voalte, it was a fantastic opportunity to partner with our customer to push healthcare communication technology forward in a way that will benefit the entire industry. For the nurses and physicians who rely on efficient communication to provide high-quality patient care, it’s even more significant.
Dana Peco, MS, CCRN, CBC, Clinical Practice Solution Manager at Voalte, explains:
“This will not only impact nurses but also Pharmacists, case managers and respiratory therapists. Think about it: If a Pharmacist needs a new medication order based on a lab result, he or she can share that result with the provider and receive a new order via secure text. That’s a huge time-saver.
“Nurses can get lab, nutrition and medication orders quickly, even when the provider is not near a computer to place an order. Patient throughput can also improve tremendously. If a patient is ready for discharge, but no discharge orders are on the chart, the nurse can text the physician to request a discharge order. This will expedite the entire process.”
With this update, The Joint Commission recognizes that healthcare communication technology plays a big part in the delivery of efficient healthcare. But it also mandates that hospitals implement a communication solution which complies with strict standards and follows structured policies and procedures. The update on texting orders specifies that a secure messaging platform must include the following features:
- Secure sign-on process
- Encrypted messaging
- Delivery and read receipts
- Date and time stamp
- Customized message retention time frames
- Specified contact list for individuals authorized to receive and record orders
As the first communication vendor to work with a customer and The Joint Commission on this issue, Voalte is pleased to offer every one of these features in Voalte Platform. Beyond security and time-stamp features, Dana and our Clinical team work closely with every customer to build a clinically relevant, dynamic Directory of users. By assigning roles in Voalte Platform, we can create a specific contact list of those who are authorized to receive and record orders.
When it comes to the way our caregivers communicate, change is coming quickly. This week’s decision by The Joint Commission is just one more reason why a complete communication platform will be so important for healthcare organizations in the future.
Note: In December 2016, The Joint Commission reversed this decision and issued a clarification stating that the use of secure text messaging for patient care is not acceptable.
Alex Brown is Director of Strategy at Voalte.