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Healthcare Professionals Communicating with Patients Through Email

By Edward Leigh, MA

Email is now a standard part of our lives. We use email in the workplace to communicate with colleagues. We use email at home to correspond with family and friends. Today, many healthcare professionals communicate with patients through email. This method of communication has many advantages, but there are some critical rules that need to be followed.

Traditional types of healthcare-patient communication are in-person meetings and written information. New technology adds another form of communication, that is, via email and the Internet. There are multiple advantages to embracing new technology:

  • Allows for simple routine types of questions (but should never replace an in-person visit with a seriously ill person).
  • Provides test results with interpretations and medication instructions.
  • Allows for follow-up care and clarification of information provided in an office setting.
  • Provides links to helpful articles or websites.

However, all of the new technology must be tempered with patient confidentiality and a right to privacy. The American Medical Association's has developed guidelines for physician-patient electronic communications. This is a link to the guidelines:

Many healthcare professionals are concerned this new technology will take up much of their time, however in many ways, this new method of communicating may ultimately save a lot of time.

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