Texting Guidelines for Researchers

The purpose of this page is to provide guidance to researchers considering using texting as a form of communication with study subjects/patients.  Please note that the content of this page will change frequently and without notice. 

Privacy and Security Policy

As of September 2018, the Privacy Office and Information Security published a policy for texting with patients/study subjects.  This policy can be found here:

Partners Healthcare Policy on texting with patients/study subjects

 

OGC Guidelines

As of June, 2019, the Office of General Counsel (OGC) has provided guidelines on texting when used in research studies.  The guidelines can be found here:

   Partners Healthcare Office of General Counsel Texting Guidelines

 

IRB Guidelines

The IRB provides recommendations for consent language and requires that all study subjects consent to text messaging before enrolling in a study.  Their recommendations can be found here:

Recommended consent language for use with study subjects

Please note:  1) ALL text content MUST be IRB approved before use with study subjects. 2) Study subject must provide consent either in writing or verbally to communicate via text message. 3) Subject approval must be documented in the study file. 4) The detailed plan for text message communication must be clearly described protocol summary.

 

Texting Platforms

There is not currently available, a list of texting platforms that can be used without a review.  ALL texting use cases require IRB and RISO review regardless of the technology.  As information about available platforms is acquired, it will be added to this section. 

REDCap+Twilio

  • To learn more about how REDCap+Twillio can be used in a study, contact edcsupport@partners.org, and review their guidelines.
  • The use of REDCap+Twilio Module has been reviewed by the Research Information Security Office (RISO). All the participant data is stored in REDCap (names, emails, phone numbers). Twilio is used to send the text + survey link. When the respondent touches the link, their browser opens on their smart phone and they complete the survey in the secure website.
  • Message content is defined by the study team and approved by the IRB.   
  • Subjects may opt out of receiving texts by typing STOP in a return text; however, this information must be manually entered into Twilio in order for it to appear in the text messages
  • Do not include PHI/PII in the text of the text message.  For further information, see the PHS texting Policy. 

Requesting a Review

To request a technical review of the texting technology and use case:

  • Answer YES to these two questions in the Insight Digital Health Form:
  1. Does your research involve the generation, use and/or dissemination of health information or physiological data using mobile and wireless devices, wearable devices, smartphone apps, digital health tools, health-related IT, new healthcare software and related new technologies?
  2. Do you plan to communicate with participants via text message?
  • Include a description of how the technology will be used in the study, including content, how contact information will be collected/stored, and the technology being utilzed.
  • For further information, refer to the Digital Health website