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10 tips for using e-mail in practice

1. At least a third of the population regularly uses e-mail, so it is logical that patients and doctors are beginning to communicate by it

1. At least a third of the population regularly uses e-mail, so it is logical that patients and doctors are beginning to communicate by it

2. The practice website and your electronic signature should stress that e-mail should not be used for any urgent requests from patients

3. Treat e-mails from patients just like any other correspondence – keep copies in the patients' records (cutting and pasting if necessary)

4. If you don't treat e-mail like you treat paper, it will soon overwhelm you...

5. ...So read, act, file, reply or delete straight away

6. E-mail may not be secure, so beware sharing any confidential information unless you are certain of the patient's consent and that you have their accurate e-mail address

7. 'Reply all' is a key that is often pressed and often regretted

8. If you are angry when you write an e-mail, store it in 'drafts' and send it tomorrow – if you still think it is wise

9. Ensure you leave an 'out-of-office' message on when you are away from the practice

10. Never write anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't write on a postcard – that is, be prepared for other people to read it

Professor David Haslam is a PMETB board member and former RCGP chair

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