Risk Management Series 1- Documentation in Allied Health

Tip # 12: Documentation Involving Email Communication

If you email with patients, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Ensure that you have a written policy regarding email communication, and it is discussed at the outset of treatment.
  • Have the patient sign an informed consent document which highlights possible privacy concerns and risks associated with communicating via email.
  • It is recommended to use email for scheduling and routine issues only, rather than specific treatment related concerns.
  • When communicating with patients through email, use encryption.
  • Communicate with patients using their personal email, not work email.  Be aware that if you are communicating with a patient through his or her work email, it does not have the privacy it would if you communicate via his or her personal email.  A work email is owned by the company, not the patient, and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.  As such, if you encounter a lawsuit or a board issue, even if your care is not at issue, your email communication may not be kept confidential if sent to a work email account.
  • Make sure that you retain any and all email communications in the patient’s medical record. 
  • Use an auto-response when off hours or if you are away.  This auto-response should reflect what to do in the event of an emergency.

At the end of the day, you are the protector of your patient’s information, and if you communicate with patients via email, it is important to maintain patients’ privacy.  Be sure to check your profession’s ethical guidelines to determine if there are guidelines on email communication.  If you have questions, it is best to consult an attorney for guidance.

 

Kristen Lambert, JD, MSW, LICSW, CPHRM, FASHRM
Healthcare Practice and Risk Management Innovation Officer
Trust Risk Management Services, Inc.
email: contact@trustrms.com

 

NOTE: This information is provided as a risk management resource and is not legal advice or an individualized personal consultation.  At the time this resource was prepared, all information was as current and accurate as possible; however, regulations, laws, or prevailing professional practice standards may have changed since the posting or recording of this resource. Accordingly, it is your responsibility to confirm whether regulatory or legal issues that are relevant to you have since been updated and/or to consult with your professional advisors or legal counsel for timely guidance specific to your situation. As with all professional use of material, please explicitly cite The Trust as the source if you reproduce or distribute any portion of these resources.  Reproduction or distribution of this resource without the express written permission of the Trust is strictly prohibited.

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NOTE: This information is provided as a risk management resource and is not legal advice or an individualized personal consultation. At the time this resource was prepared, all information was as current and accurate as possible; however, regulations, laws, or prevailing professional practice standards may have changed since the posting or recording of this resource. Accordingly, it is your responsibility to confirm whether regulatory or legal issues that are relevant to you have since been updated and/or to consult with your professional advisors or legal counsel for timely guidance specific to your situation. As with all professional use of material, please explicitly cite The Trust Companies as the source if you reproduce or distribute any portion of these resources. Reproduction or distribution of this resource without the express written permission of The Trust Companies is strictly prohibited.