How to Avoid Liability when Text Messaging with Patients

June 01, 2014

In the Medical Economics article “Text messaging with patients: Steps physicians must take to avoid liability“ published 5/23/2014, Dr. Cepelewicz details the steps for avoiding any liability when text messaging with patients. The conclusion for text messaging: Be Careful. The most important thing to remember is that any text messages should be included in the patient’s medical records. If you include protected health information (PHI) in the text message, make sure that you are compliant with all rules that govern PHI. On top of these concerns, other issues with text messaging is that the physician cannot be certain that the text message is being read by the intended recipient and that text security is vulnerable because the text message is not encrypted. With all of these concerns, should you text message with your patients? If you feel that you are vulnerable to security or privacy, then you may prohibit any text messaging with patients. However, if this is not realistic, then you should develop a text messaging policy that includes the following requirements:

  • Include “non-urgent” information in text messaging
  • Must verify recipient (i.e., authentication process)
  • Text messages can be easily reviewed and audited
  • Password protect any devices used for text messaging
  • Any treatment related text messages are included in the patient’s medical records
  • Retain or Delete text messages according to defined protocols
  • Purge text messages from devices that are no longer in service or being exchanged
  • Register the device with the practice and develop plan for reporting and tracking lost or stolen devices
  • Obtain the consent of the patient before text messaging

View the full article at Medical Economics: