Patients may want to use email or other electronic formats to facilitate communication. Federal regulations impose a "duty to warn" patients of risks associated with unencrypted email. UW Medicine must document in the medical record that patients have been advised that email communications could potentially be read by a third party. Upon receipt and documentation of this notification, the patient has the right to request communication via email.
Risk of using email include, but are not limited, to:
- Email may be forwarded, printed, and stored in numerous paper and electronic forms.
- Email may be sent to the wrong address by either party.
- Email may be easier to forge than handwritten or signed papers.
- Copies of email may exist even after the sender or the receiver has deleted his or her copy.
- Email service providers have a right to archive and inspect emails.
- Email may be intercepted, altered, or used without detection or authorization.
- Email may spread computer viruses.
- Email delivery is not guaranteed.
Patients are responsible for:
- Agreeing not to use email for medical emergencies or sending time-sensitive information to providers.
- Following up with their healthcare providers or staff if they have not received a response to an email within a reasonable time period.
- Informing UW Medicine registration of any changes to an email address.
- Informing their healthcare provider or staff in writing if they decide to discontinue using email communications.
Recommendations for patient use of email:
Patients who send email messages should state a question or concern briefly and clearly, and include:
- A subject line that describes the question or concern, and
- Clear patient identification, including patient name, telephone number and patient identification number in the body of the message.
- Secure electronic communications:
- Where feasible, patients should be directed to use eCare (a secure, Internet tool that connects patients to their care team and personal health information).
Requests for communicating with patients in other electronic formats:
Patients may request to be contacted via other electronic formats like texting. If a patient requests to be contacted via text message, the workforce member must warn the patient of the risks of using a text message (the message is sent in plain text and may be intercepted, forwarded, stored in multiple locations, and delivery is not guaranteed) and document in the medical record that patients have been advised of the associated risks. If the patient still requests that text messaging be used and the technology for accommodating this request is available, brief text messaging using the minimum necessary information may be used. (example: "Your appointment has been set for 4/4/14 at 10:30 am")