Are there legal issues with a facility having RNs text patient information?

By | 2021-05-07T16:31:53-04:00 July 29th, 2015|2 Comments

Dear Nancy,

The nursing home where I work has started requiring us to text a particular physician about his patients at his request. They did not provide a cell phone for this requirement. Most of the nurses have no problem using their personal cell phones for this use, but I do not want to use my personal cell phone this way. I think this is not the best practice because my employer is not compensating us for using our personal cell phones and HIPAA requires us to keep patient information private.  We are leaving work with patient/resident information on our phones. Could we have legal issues with this requirement?


Dear Ava,

You are right in being concerned about using your personal cell phone to text a physician concerning a patient.  Although it is your cell phone, it can be used by another, reviewed by another or get misplaced with the personal information about the patient for any and all to possibly read.

Another concern with this arrangement is what your employer’s policy is about the use of personal cell phones to relay information about patients to a physician and vice versa.  Is this acceptable?  How does the information get documented in the patient’s medical record? How does one verify it is the physician who is responding to your text?

In 2011, the Joint Commission stated it is not acceptable for physicians or other licensed healthcare providers to text orders for patients in a hospital or any other healthcare facility. Clearly, not only is a patient’s confidentiality and privacy at risk when using a personal cell phone to share personal identifiable health information, the institution is at risk for violating its accreditation status.

Whether you are compensated for the use of your personal cell phone, the overriding concern here is patient privacy, confidentiality and the application of HIPAA. You might want to share this physician’s request with your CNO in the hope it can be eliminated and another possible solution found that is in the best interests of all involved.

Cordially Nancy


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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.


  1. Avatar
    Valerie January 27, 2017 at 2:27 am - Reply

    Our DON took Pos’s; signed Dr orders scripts and other patient summaries home with her. I work in a residential facility. Is this a Hippa violation? I live in Mo

  2. Avatar
    Marie July 8, 2020 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Dear Nancy,

    Is it okay to use my personal phone to carry patient information? Can a nurse be forced to do that buy their employer? If anything, I figured I would be fired for doing so. According to HIPAA the patient has the right to decide who may look at their information. Especially if there’s children involved. Like with me. I’m a pediatric nurse and I need the parents’ permission to share the sensitive data

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