Communication is an essential component of the safe and effective practice of medicine and, in particular, surgery. In today’s digital age,
communication takes place across various platforms.
A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center showed
that nearly two-thirds of Americans ( 64 percent)
own a smartphone, and that text messaging is the
most widely used feature on these devices.* In the
18–29-year-old demographic, nearly 100 percent of the
respondents said they used their smartphones for text
messaging, whereas nearly 98 percent of respondents
ages 30–49 said they use their phones to text message.
Texting in health care: The debate continues
Texting may be a popular and effective way to
communicate with friends and family, but in recent
years The Joint Commission and other stakeholders
have debated its appropriateness in the health care
environment. In May 2016, The Joint Commission
acknowledged advancements that have resulted
in enhanced security for text message data.† As a
result, The Joint Commission revised its previous
position that advised against secure texting of
patient care orders and decided to allow licensed
independent practitioners (LIPs) to use secure text
messaging platforms to send patient care orders,
provided the systems met certain criteria.
However, after concerns were raised about security
issues related to transmitting orders via text in
December 2016, The Joint Commission, in collaboration
with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
(CMS), decided to reverse its May 2016 position to
The Joint Commission clarifies stance on
secure text messaging of patient care orders
*Pew Research Center. U.S. smartphone use in 2015. Pew Research
Center American trends panel experience sampling survey, November
10–16, 2014. Available at: www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/
us-smartphone-use-in-2015/. Accessed January 20, 2017.
†Joint Commission Resources. Update: Texting orders. Perspectives.
May 2016. Available at: www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/6/
Update_Texting_Orders.pdf. Accessed January 12, 2017.
A LOOK AT THE JOINT COMMISSION
by Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, FRCSI(Hon), FRCS(Hon), FRCSEd(Hon)