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November 2019

May 19, 2020 - Alerts by

Text Messaging in the Workplace – Think Before You Send

Text messaging has changed the way healthcare providers communicate with one another in the workplace. Most providers carry smartphones or tablets with them throughout the day, and many use these devices to send and receive patient data through encrypted text messaging programs like WhatsApp, OhMD, pMD, and TigerText (now TigerConnect). These programs ensure messages are not intercepted by third parties and are stored in a secure location. It’s important to remember, however, that messages sent through these programs may still be used in medical malpractice cases or other litigation.

Like every other profession, healthcare providers will inevitably encounter difficult people, including patients, co-professionals, and others. When these situations arise, providers may turn to their smartphones to vent their frustrations to colleagues.  Before they know it, those providers may be caught in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and a plaintiff’s attorney is attempting to use those messages against them. It may only take a few careless messages to substantially damage the jury’s view of a provider. To avoid this, you can follow a few simple steps to ensure your text messages are not used against you in court.

First, do not send any text messages that reflect poorly on your character. A single text message sent out of frustration or humor can be twisted to make the most well-respected professionals look bad. A plaintiff’s attorney may take sarcastic messages out of context to try to convince a jury you don’t take your job seriously or care about your patients. Before you send a message, imagine reading it as a third party. If the message reflects poorly on your character, contains negative comments about a patient, or comes across as unprofessional, do not send it.

In addition to the messages you send, be cautious in how you respond to colleagues’ messages. If you “like” or laugh at a colleague’s message that is controversial or inflammatory, it may come across as you condoning your colleague’s behavior. In these types of situations, it may be best to hold colleagues accountable to their words or choose not to respond to their negative messages.

Second, only use these text messaging programs for work-related purposes. A best practice is for you to only send messages that are related to the care and treatment of patients. Avoid using text messaging programs to vent frustrations or discuss personal matters, and be conservative in the number of messages you send.  

As a whole, encrypted text messaging programs provide various benefits to healthcare professionals. They increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace and help patients quickly receive the care they need. However, with the ever-increasing prevalence of text messaging in the workplace and the possibility of those text messages being used against you, it’s critical to think before you send.

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