Electronic communication tips for physicians

April 10, 2013

Physicians and consultants share advice on communicating electronically with patients.

Physicians and consultants recently shared with Medical Economics advice on communicating electronically with patients.


  • Consider increasing communicating with patients via emessaging as a way to free up time for additional interactions.

  • Consider charging patients for increased access to your practice via emessaging.

  • Be sure your actions comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and that your messages are encrypted and secure.

  • If your messages are not encrypted, then include this fact in your risk analysis.

  • Before you begin communicating with a patient via email, ensure that he or she is comfortable communicating this way.

  • It may be acceptable for patients to send you practice-related text messages if they have your cell phone number, since they are initiating the communication, but proceed with caution before responding to ensure HIPAA compliance.


  • Use a patient portal to facilitate secure, private communication and provide convenience to patients who wish to access their medical records online.


  • Establish your practice’s social media policy before launching social media efforts. Then enforce it.

  • Limit your posts to professional matters.

  • Do not mix your personal and professional accounts.

  • Consider creating a fan page for your practice on Facebook. Doing so will bypass the dilemma of friend requests because fan pages operate solely on “likes.”

  • Do not promote products from which you stand to gain financially.

  • As a matter of policy, do not post any information that others could use to identify a patient. Before posting any image, recording, or potentially identifiable information about a patient on a public site, obtain patient authorization via a compliant agreement.

  • Speak to patients collectively, but do not answer individual medical inquiries or try to make a diagnosis. Tell patients to seek individualized medical attention as appropriate.