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Are There Legal Issues With a Facility Having RNs Text Patient Information?


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? Ava

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