CMPA – Using email communication with your patients: legal risks

Using email communication with your patients: legal risks

Originally published March 2005 / Revised May 20151

While the use of email between physicians and patients has many potential advantages, physicians should be aware of the legal risks and consider precautions to help mitigate those risks.

Patients should be informed of, and agree to assume, the risks inherent in this form of communication. As well, physicians should review any applicable statutory (e.g. privacy legislation) or regulatory authority (College) requirements that may affect the use of email. Some privacy commissioners (e.g. Ontario) have indicated that the use of email to communicate personal health information should generally be avoided, but if required in the circumstances, appropriate technical safeguards and security procedures must be implemented.

The legal risks of using email to communicate with patients stem from issues of confidentiality, privacy, and security; timeliness of responses; and clarity of communication.


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