BACKGROUND: In our current Clinic environment, most providers have the opportunity to communicate with patients by e-mail. While this form of communication can be particularly efficient, it also carries risk.
Recently, the Canadian Medical Protective Association published an information sheet regarding the legal risks of e-mail communication with patients. From the standpoint of Marathon Family Health Team, e-mail communication with patients is allowed where it enhances efficiency and the health care provider-patient relationship.
Marathon Family Health Team recognizes the risks of e-mail communication.
- In all instances in which e-mail communication is to take place with patients, the MFHT Email Communication consent form is to be signed and scanned to their chart.
- It will be made clear to patients by their provider that all e-mail communication with become a permanent part of their electronic medical record.
- It will be made clear to patients that no urgent information should be communicated by e-mail, nor should any request for appointments. E-mail should be used for health care providers to send illness and health related information to patients to confirm therapeutic plans; to obtain brief follow up information about patients’ clinical status or to obtain further information. Patients may contact their health care provider to provide brief updates regarding illness or forward requested information to health care providers.
- E-mail will not be used for the communication of diagnosis and in particular, diagnoses with any significant sensitivity, such as sexually transmitted infections, AIDS or HIV, mental health-related issues or substance abuse related issues.
- Patients must be aware that security of e-mail at their receiving end is their responsibility and they should be encouraged to use personal email and not work based email for all their email communications with their health care provider.
- Email “threads” that have been completed with be cut and pasted to the telephone notes section of the EMR in order to create a permanent trail.