Ask a lawyer: Texting updates to other health professionals


Question: Lately, I have been using my personal smartphone to text updates to physicians regarding patients. Is this practice acceptable?

Answer:  Mobile devices offer nurses and other healthcare professionals a convenient, user-friendly way to communicate with each other. Texting is fast, direct and simplifies the pager systems that hospitals and other health care organizations have traditionally used.

However, nurses who are texting in the workplace should consider all the relevant privacy issues surrounding this practice. First, using your personal device to send and receive health information concerning a patient may result in unauthorized disclosure of the information. It could be inappropriately accessed or disclosed if the device is lost, stolen or inadvertently viewed by a third party. Nurses should take steps to ensure that reasonable safeguards are in place to protect a potential privacy breach, such as the use of personal identifiers, strong passwords and encryption. Further, nurses should avoid using public Wi-Fi or unsecure cellular networks to send and receive information.

Another potential risk is that traditional text messaging networks do not allow the sender to know if, when and to whom a message has been delivered. Also, there may no way to keep the original message as validation of what was actually entered into the medical record.

To address these concerns, many health care organizations have implemented secure text messaging networks in which health care professionals can send and receive patient information. These networks ensure that information transmitted is adequately encrypted and are often integrated with the patient’s electronic record, ensuring that the details of the message are accurately reflected in the chart.

Nurses are advised to only use personal devices with their employer’s consent and send communications on their organization’s secure network, if one is available. Nurses using their personal mobile devices in the workplace should follow employer policies surrounding this practice.

For more information and other advice surrounding this issue, see our CNPS infoLAW on Mobile Devices in the Workplace.

 

Published May 2014

 

THIS PUBLICATION IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. NOTHING IN THIS PUBLICATION SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE FROM ANY LAWYER, CONTRIBUTOR OR THE CNPS. READERS SHOULD CONSULT LEGAL COUNSEL FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE.

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