E-Mailing Patients - Professional Risk Management Services

E-Mailing Patients


In the “Malpractice Rx” column of the current issue of Current Psychiatry, Drs. Mossman and Reynolds address the risks of using e-mail to communicate with patients. As they mention, getting the patient’s consent is the key to managing the risk. We recommend that this consent be documented and there is a link in the article to access our model informed consent to e-mail template. Use of such a consent form can go a long way in clarifying with patients what is appropriate – and what is not appropriate – for e-mail communication.

One of our insured psychiatrists has implemented what I thought was a great strategy to minimize e-mail risk. He set up an automatic reply reminding patients that e-mail was not to be used in clinical emergencies – and provided his direct contact information in the automatic reply.

And I can’t have a technology-related post without a HIPAA thought. If you are a covered entity under HIPAA, and are not using encrypted e-mail, your patients need to specifically agree to the risks associated with using unencrypted e-mail. Again, use of a consent form can assist you in meeting this obligation.

I’m off to Miami this weekend for our first full-day mock trial CME course – I can’t wait to present it!


Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD – Vice President   As Vice President of Risk Management, Ms. Vanderpool is responsible for the development and implementation of PRMS’s risk management services for The Psychiatrists’ Program. Ms. Vanderpool has developed expertise in the areas of HIPAA and forensic practice, and has consulted, written and spoken nationally on these and other healthcare law and risk management topics. She most recently wrote a chapter concerning the risks of harm to forensic experts for Robert L. Sadoff, MD’s book Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychiatry: Minimizing Harm, (Feb. 2011/Wiley). Ms. Vanderpool received her undergraduate degree from James Madison University, and her MBA and JD from George Mason University. Prior to joining PRMS in 2000, Ms. Vanderpool practiced criminal defense law, taught business and legal courses as an adjunct faculty member at a community college and spent eight years managing a general surgical practice in Virginia. Follow Donna on LinkedIn.

This blog has also been cross-posted on LinkedIn.

Categories: PRMS Blog

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