If you’re tired of being asked for email consent, you are not alone. With the introduction of CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) on July 1, 2014, virtually every Canadian with an inbox has been inundated with email invitations to “continue receiving important information” from companies desperate to keep them on their mailing lists (see more detail in the box below on CASL).
But while CASL may not be raising much concern among healthcare organizations, the issue of email consent from patients certainly is. It’s no wonder: with patient privacy concerns, ethical concerns and regulations like PHIPA, the healthcare industry has much to lose when it comes to a potential email breach.
For many hospitals and healthcare organizations, the response to this risk has been to avoid using email and other electronic communication altogether. While this approach has worked in the past, there is increasing pressure to find ways to move beyond voicemail and the fax machine. Mounting evidence shows that electronic communication leads to increased efficiency, increased patient satisfaction, and better care. Consequently, patients are quickly viewing this form of communication as a new standard of care.
The first step in adopting email communication involves obtaining consent from the patient. Even if you currently have no plans to use email for clinical purposes, there is good reason to start collecting email addresses and explicit consent from patients. Consent is required to communicate with patients via email for any of the following:
- Appointment reminders
- Office announcements
- Clinical advice and test result notifications
- Distributing educational resources
- Clinic policy updates and reminders (including block fee details)
- Consultations among health care professionals
- Notice of a clinical trial, research or other studies for which the patient may be eligible
By setting up a process to collect email consent now, your organization can “future proof” itself to take advantage of the rapid technology developments affecting the medical sector.
Making Email Consent Easy at the Point of Care
We recently brought together a leading hospital, a major university health services clinic and a family health team to develop an automated process to collect patient consent at the point of care using the OceanWave tablet. It includes a detailed consent form based on the recommendations presented by the Canadian Medical Protective Organization (you can view the form by clicking on the button at the end of this article).
This process is freely available to all Ocean customers. It can be edited to meet the needs of a specific organization. The email consent form is automatically presented to patients on a tablet when they check in. It can also be sent to patients to complete on a secure portal via email. Some of the benefits include:
- Automatic email address capture for consenting patients on a tablet.
- Full support for parents to consent on behalf of children.
- Ability to automatically request consent renewal and email address review once per year (or other specified timeframe).
- Full EMR integration to digitally track email consent.
- Paperless solution with electronic date/time stamp.
- Ocean security framework, featuring end-to-end client-specific encryption to protect patient data.
As part of this process, we also developed a way to easily view email consent status in the patient record in the EMR. The email consent toolbar for TELUS PS Suite allows physicians to see at a glance if a patient has provided email consent. When used with the Ocean email consent questionnaire, the patient status is automatically updated as soon as the patient provides consent. The toolbar is also available as a free download with quick links to manually track email consent in PSS independent of the Ocean platform.
To see how the email consent form appears to a patient, simply click on the demo links below. You can also download the email consent toolbar from the link provided. If you’re interested in getting started with email consent in your practice, let us know!