If you engage in text communication with patients, first you should have an office policy concerning when it is appropriate to communicate with you via text and a signed informed consent document which highlights possible privacy concerns when using text messages. It is important to have consistent rules about what types of communications patients are able to communicate with you via text. Also, you cannot ensure a party other than your patient may receive your text. Your patient may leave his or her phone on the counter, table or unattended. Therefore, the text you send may not be received by your patient. These risks should be addressed in your informed consent with the patient. Make sure you take a screenshot of any text communication to memorialize in the record. If it becomes apparent that you cannot continue to communicate with your patient via text, for whatever reason, ensure that the process for ending such communication is incorporated within your policy, and ensure you memorialize this change by sending a letter to the patient that texting is no longer able to be used. Should you have an emergency issue arise over texting, be aware of how to seek emergency services/response for the patient.
At the end of the day, you are the protector of your patient’s information, and if you communicate with patients via text, it is important to always maintain patients’ privacy. Be sure to check your profession’s ethical guidelines on documentation principles. When you have questions, it is best to consult an attorney for guidance.
Kristen Lambert, JD, MSW, LICSW, CPHRM, FASHRM
Healthcare Practice and Risk Management Innovation Officer
Trust Risk Management Services, Inc.
NOTE: This information is provided as a risk management resource and is not legal advice or an individualized personal consultation. At the time this resource was prepared, all information was as current and accurate as possible; however, regulations, laws, or prevailing professional practice standards may have changed since the posting or recording of this resource. Accordingly, it is your responsibility to confirm whether regulatory or legal issues that are relevant to you have since been updated and/or to consult with your professional advisors or legal counsel for timely guidance specific to your situation. As with all professional use of material, please explicitly cite The Trust as the source if you reproduce or distribute any portion of these resources. Reproduction or distribution of this resource without the express written permission of The Trust Companies is strictly prohibited.