Electronic Communication Policy
Telephone calls, Emails and SMS – For patients
Our patients will be given the option of being contacted by electronic means such as via email and/or SMS.
It is acknowledged by the practice that consent is implied if the patient initiates electronic communication with the practice.
The signed consent on the registration form will be scanned and recorded in the patient electronic record and their response recorded on the practice software.
The consent form will state that the practice may use this mode of communication:
- To send reminders for a scheduled appointment.
- When the patient needs to make an appointment to review a test result.
- As a reminder that a generic preventative screening test (for example, flu vaccine, skin-check, cervical screening) is due
Further information will state that the practice:
- Cannot guarantee confidentiality of information transferred via email (we use CutePDF to secure emails)
- Will comply with the Australian privacy principles and the privacy act 1988.
- Communications will not contain sensitive information, due to the risk of confidential information being accessed inadvertently or intentionally by a third party.
- Communications will not contain results that only the general practitioner should be divulging in a follow-up appointment, i.e. Abnormal results, education concerning a new diagnosis, etc.
- Communication will not entail promotion of any product and/or preventative health care (as some patients can interpret this as an advertisement)
- When recalling a patient for a test result, the extent to which patients are followed up will depend on the level of urgency and the clinical significance of their test results. If the patient has not responded to the SMS in 3 working days, then registered mail letter is sent
- SMS between the practice and the patient will form part of the medical record and need to be included, as must any actions taken in response to the message. Our medical software records SMS records and we document when an email is sent
- Emails will be answered within 24 business hours (also included in the automatic email response).
- Patients should not use email to contact the practice in an emergency (also included in the automatic email response).
Our practice email account for patients and stakeholders for non-urgent communication with our practice is firstname.lastname@example.org
This email account will the routinely checked throughout the business day by the reception staff member working that day
- At the start of business
- One hour before end of business
The email message will then be forwarded to the appropriate team member for response. Communication conducted with a patient via electronic means will be added to the patient’s medical record by the team member resolving the enquiry.
- Emails between the practice and the patient will form part of the medical record and need to be included, as well as any actions taken in response to the message. Hoppers Lane General Practice will document when an email is received and sent.
An incoming telephone call is the principal method for initial and subsequent communication by a patient and most other persons in this practice. As such the telephone is recognised as a vital vehicle for creating positive first impression, displaying a caring, confident attitude and acting as a reassuring resource for our patients and all others.
Staff are aware of alternative modes of communication used by patients with a disability or language barrier. (See “Non-English-speaking background patients).
Staff are mindful of confidentiality and respect the patients right to privacy. Patient’s names are not openly stated over the telephone within earshot of other patients or visitors.
This practice prides itself on the high calibre of customer service we provide, especially in the area of patient security, confidentiality, and right to privacy, dignity and respect.
It is important for patients telephoning our practice to have the urgency of their needs determined promptly. Staff are to obtain adequate information from the patient to assess whether the call is an emergency before placing the call on hold.
Staff are trained initially, and on an ongoing basis, to recognise urgent medical matters and the procedures for obtaining urgent medical attention. Reception staff have been informed of when calls should be put through to nursing or medical staff for clarification.
Staff are aware of each doctor’s policy on accepting or returning calls.
Patients at our practice are able to access a doctor by telephone to discuss their clinical care.
Messages taken for later follow-up are documented for the doctor’s action and attention through intramail.
Administration staff does not give treatment or advice over the telephone, unless having been instructed to do so by a doctor.
Results of tests are only given over the phone during a telehealth consult between the doctor and the patient.
A phone answering message is maintained and activated to advise patients of how to access medical care outside normal opening hours.