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. Vision Care Specialists (VCS) 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 VCS staff 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 our Patient Portal (a secure internet tool that connect patients to their personal health information).
Requests for Communicating with Patients in Other Electronic Formats
Patients may request to be contacted via other electronic formats like texting.
VCS only uses text messaging for appointment reminders or materials notifications, which both include limited information. Texting is not an approved form of communication with patient’s relating to their treatment or financial obligations.