[ Wednesday, January 27, 2010 ]


Physician texting and emailing: I occasionally get questions about whether physicians should use email and/or text messaging to transmit PHI (usually in the context of physicians consulting with each other over a mutual patient), and my usual response is, "if you do, don't use patient names and otherwise de-identify as best you can." It's not secure however you do it, so if it's communication between providers, it's best to just say, "that patient you saw yesterday that I sent you" rather than "Gertrude Jones."

But there's also the question of physicians emailing with patients. That's a harder decision. Every other business operates on email, why not doctors? Partly because the compensation structure works against it; partly because asynchronous communication prevents easy back-and-forth Q&A type discussions which are best between doctors and patients; partly because a doctor needs to see a patient's reaction (including body language) to a statement or question to read into the patient's understanding or veracity; and partly because doctors are afraid that written email might come back to haunt them in a risk management way. However, as you consider whether your doctors should text or email, first consider the need to obtain patient consent to that sort of communication (with full disclosure of the security risks), as well as the likely need to encrypt. Then consider what AHIMA has had to say. Here are some more good thoughts. You might also want to consider the specific hardware and software you use, as this article indicates (I'm not advocating one way or another, mind you).

Jeff [11:38 AM]

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