Ethical Guidelines for Use of Electronic Mail Between Patients and Physicians

American Journal of Bioethics 3 (3):43-47 (2003)
Abstract
This Report examines the ethical implications of electronic communication, focusing on the use of electronic mail (e-mail), considers its impact on a previously established patient-physician relationship, and the limitations in using e-mail to create a new patient-physician relationship. In its recommendations, this report offers guidance to physicians who use electronic mail to communicate with patients and online users. These guidelines maintain that e-mail should not be used to establish a patient-physician relationship, but rather to supplement personal encounters. When using e-mail, physicians hold the same ethical responsibilities to their patients as they do during other encounters and that information must be presented in a manner that meets professional standards. The report requires that physicians notify patients of e-mail's inherent limitations and that patients be given the opportunity to accept these limitations prior to the communication of privileged information. Finally, physicians should be aware of privacy and confidentiality concerns when using e-mail to communicate with patients
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