Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Does Email Help You As A Doctor?

Email or electronic mailing has revolutionized business communication. The incentivization of technology in the healthcare industry coupled with its growing inclination towards consumerism and strong patient-doctor relationships has made it necessary for doctors and healthcare professionals to utilize this channel of communication to improve the quality and reach of their practice. However, even though a majority of doctors do own personal email accounts, not many are comfortable using the email for regular, professional correspondence.

Why Should Doctors Use Email?

Doctors are busy people. Email is fast, easy to manage and allows for instant response. As emails can be read on PCs, tablets, smartphones and practically any device with web access in your clinic, home or while commuting, incorporating email communication in your daily practice will help you stay connected with patients and other healthcare professionals wherever you are. 

Email not only improves your accessibility (especially in situations where instant responses are needed for critical correspondence) but also helps you shorten your workday by eliminating those piled up stacks of paper mail that welcome you to your clinic every morning! 
Managing your email is very easy and most free email services are built on simple, user-friendly models. You can send, receive and store all your correspondence instantly, without having to use paper, fax machines or courier services. You can prioritize your mails and respond to them based on the immediacy required. You can use the email to schedule visits, send appointment reminders, prescription refills, lab reports, scans, pre and post surgery care instructions, medication advice and billing details to patients. You can network with media, other doctors and medical professionals in the industry. You can also use it to educate patients by sending useful links and important online study material that could help them understand and work on their condition better.

One of the biggest advantages of using the email is quick and organized storage of all your communication which may include records and other documentation. Your files, scanned paper work, pictures, reports, graphs, numbers and other medical data which have been sent or received via email can be saved and stored online. These files can be neatly organized under appropriate tags for quick and easy retrieval whenever you wish to view them. Adding to that, convenient email search options save you hours of otherwise looking through paper files to find that one elusive paper that just won’t show up!

Using the email to communicate with your patients has a number of advantages. However, you cannot aim to completely replace telephone calls, personal visits and other forms of patient communication with it. One cannot communicate critical medical data requiring the doctor’s personal presence and support using this rather impersonal communication device. Doctors must identify the correspondence that will show positively on productivity and patient satisfaction if exchanged over email and only model those functions and areas under its purview on a regular basis.

Popular Email Services

There are many popular free email services that will help you send, receive, store and manage your correspondence. Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live and AOL are widely used web email services. MS Outlook or Zimbra can be used to configure your email on your computer and is also a popular choice. Another email service that specifically complies with HIPAA rules is MD email.net (Medical Email). It is a medical industry secure HIPAA email for medical professionals and has over 395,000 doctor-users spanning over 65 medical specialties.

How To Set Up An Email Account?

To set up an email account, key in the URL address of the provider of your choice, click on the usually prominent “Sign up” button, fill a form and you’re ready to get started.
For example, if you wish to set up an account with Gmail, 

2. Click on “Create an account”
3. Fill in the registration form. 
Here is a video which shows you how.


What’s Keeping the Doctors Away?

The medical industry is historically known to be a conservative one characterized by sluggish and rather cynical adoption of technology. Studies indicate that while 90% patients would like their doctors to be accessible over email, doctors continue to elude this space.
One reason for doctors shying away from using the email could be that email correspondence is not reimbursed by insurance providers. Also, most doctors still prefer to operate under traditional models of communication simply because they have been using them for all these years and are too comfortable to venture out and try newer, faster and more productive ways of reaching out to their patients. 
Security and compliance issues are also responsible for doctors being weary about using email communication in their practice. Medical data is always sensitive and like any other form of communication, email too has its medical-legal implications. The AMA lays down guidelines for doctor-patient electronic communication that can be read at http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/young-physicians-section/advocacy-resources/guidelines-physician-patient-electronic-communications.page
Along with following these guidelines, doctors must ensure that they operate on a secure and reliable internet connection. Computers must be well-protected against spam, virus and other bugs. As a rule of thumb, unknown emails should not be opened. Your password must be unbreachable, kept confidential and regularly changed. Keeping these security guidelines in mind, doctors can safely utilize the benefits of email to improve the productivity and accessibility of their practice.

References:

2 comments:

housedoc said...

A secure online email service that is easy to use, free for physicians, and allows them to charge for their services is www.housedoc.us.

Vikas Dhama said...

Thanks for sharing the information.

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