The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) clarified regulations related to texting by dentists, physicians, and other healthcare providers in a memo issued on December 28, 2017.
The director of CMS' Survey and Certification Group wrote that "CMS does not permit the texting of orders by physicians or other healthcare providers." The memo explained that texting of orders from a provider, such as a dentist, to a member of the "care team" was not in compliance with CMS regulations requiring the maintenance of a patient's medical records and the requirement to keep these records confidential.
However, the agency recognizes that "texting as a means of communication with other members of the healthcare team has become an essential and valuable means of communication among the team members," and the memo spells out what providers must do to remain compliant.
"All providers must utilize and maintain systems/platforms that are secure, encrypted, and minimize the risks to patient privacy and confidentiality as per HIPAA regulations," the memo states.
Providers are expected to establish a process to routinely assess the security and integrity of the texting platforms used, the agency noted.