How Texting Patient Information Can Increase Risk


In some hospitals, some communications about a patient’s health care have moved from the bedside or telephone to the exchange of health care information via text messages. Having ready electronic access to a provider has many virtues, but the exchange of patient information via texting has many risks associated with it. This article will review the potential risks that arise from the use of texting as a means of sharing patient information between health care providers.

Accuracy of Patient Information. High quality decisions about patient care are dependent upon accurate and complete information. Text messaging is designed for quick sharing of small bits of information. Since the number of characters that may be included in a text message are often limited, i.e. 160 characters, the ability to engage in complex decision making discussions, and explore options and alternatives is very limited. When the sender is seeking to shorten the message, critical information or options may be eliminated or there may be confusion about which patient is being discussed in the text message. Providers need to consider when it may be best to place a phone call or meet in person rather than texting so the parties can engage in an in depth discussion of the facts or care options, allowing the participants to hear, clarify, exchange ideas, reflect, contemplate and then make patient care recommendations.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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