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« How Doctors Use Google | Main | An Overview Of Current Treatment Technologies »

"Can I Just Email My Doctor?", Your Patient is Asking the Receptionist.

90% of adult patients would like to communicate with their physician via email. Unfortunately, only 20% of physicians use email to reply to patients' questions.

There are two major problems:
-How to make sure that the communication is secure and HIPAA-compliant?
-How to bill for it?

Online Security
Medem (a for-profit network founded by AMA) has developed a physician-patient email system which is claimed to be secure.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield is one of the few insurers that pay for patient-to-doctor emails. They call them "online visits" and the reimbursement is $ 20.

Reader Comments (2)

I've been emailing my patients for the last few months and have found it to be worthwhile. I feel I'm saving 50% of the time spent dialing and calling on the phone, asking for the patient, etc. I like the fact that the time involve forces the patient to narrow their question.
Whether or not you are a HIPAA covered entity it is good practice to alert patients to the inherent security and privacy holes in public email.

We advise our clients to take three actions on their websites:

1. Encourage new/potential patients to call you and disclose on top of contact forms that diagnosis cannot be offered online. This can help sales, since the visitor is encouraged to open dialog with the spa or practice.

2. Post something like this disclaimer on each form, with a checkbox acknowledgement required:

"Communications through our website or via email are not encrypted and are not necessarily secure. Use of the internet or email is for your convenience only, and by using them, you assume the risk of unauthorized use.

By checking this box you hereby agree to hold [practice name], its doctors and affiliates, harmless from any hacking or any other unauthorized use of your personal information by outside parties. "

3. Implement a disclaimer in your email footer with a disclaimer similar to that above.

Ryan Miller
Etna Interactive

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