Electronic communication tips for physicians

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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.