Suggested Guidelines for E-Mail Communication in Psychiatric Practice
J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(7):799-806
© Copyright 2014 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Background: Physicians and patients are
increasingly communicating with one another by e-mail concerning
administrative issues, medications, and other aspects of care.
The objective of this article is to review existing guidelines
for general physicians communicating with patients by e-mail as
the basis for developing more specific guidelines for psychiatric
Method: We review e-mail guidelines previously
developed by the American Medical Informatics Association,
subsequently promulgated by the American Medical Association, and
consider each suggestion for clinical and administrative practice
from the perspective of psychiatric practice. Case vignettes
illustrate several of these issues.
Results: We suggest expansion and/or
modification of existing guidelines to address more directly
issues of specific concern in psychiatric practice.
Conclusion: Existing general guidelines
concerning the use of e-mail in medical practice are useful
starting points for psychiatric practice. Psychiatrists must pay
particular attention to issues of confidentiality, communicative
tone, and professional boundaries. With cautious application,
e-mail may provide a useful tool for enhancing communication and
treatment options for psychiatrists and their patients.