Can We Text Patients about COVID-19?
The ICO released a statement that says:
“Data protection and electronic communication laws do not stop Government, the NHS or any other health professionals from sending public health messages to people, either by phone, text or email as these messages are not direct marketing.”
This means that practices can, and should, use text to keep patients updated on the current situation such as advising on all consultations being phone / video or whether the practice is open on any given day.
Furthermore, some practices in the following weeks may wish to participate in community approaches to raise awareness to those at risk who are self-isolating. The purpose of this would be to let patients know what resources are being made available and giving them contact information of those who can help whether it’s to help with food shops or aid with bills.
SUFFOLK PRACTICES: Please note the CCG have confirmed that they have authorised ONE mass text per week to patients due to cost. The exact wording must be approved by the CCG.
Most areas already have unlimited plans. If this is not the case practices should ask their CCG to email email@example.com requesting additional credits.
Can We Use Text or Email For Health Information?
We are waiting for more clarity on this approach and will update this section as it is obtained.
Where patients have provided their mobile phone number or email address as part of their registration, it can be assumed that they are providing permission for these routes to be used for direct care activities.
Where possible, check with the patient in advance that they are comfortable receiving health information in this way and that they understand the risk of interception.
If email is the most practical route, then you could use the NHS Encryption route described at Appendix E in the attached protocol .
If there is an urgency that means the NHS Encryption route is not appropriate, then you should take the additional security steps;
Confirm the email address with the recipient via telephone
Check with the patient in advance that they are comfortable receiving health information in this way and that they understand the risk of interception.