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How to use e-mail effectively

Dr Pam Brown offers tips on how to get the most out of e-mail as a form of communication

Dr Pam Brown offers tips on how to get the most out of e-mail as a form of communication

Use email effectively

• Email is used by all doctors for practice and personal communication

• It can be a fast, effective, communication method which allows messages to be dealt with in available time, but is also a major time-waster

• Reviewing how we use and abuse email can improve efficient and effective use

• Email works well for:

o Short, concise messages

o Staying in touch at a distance

o Arranging meetings

o Conveying information to groups

o Sharing electronic documents

• Email is not ideal for lengthy, complex communications, or where to challenge or discipline people

• Keep messages short, factual and polite. Email is a great place to practice writing clearly and concisely.

• Do not use ALL CAPITALS as this represents shouting at the recipient

• If the message is important flag as ‘High priority'

• Explore Options under the Tools menu to personalise your system

o Spelling can automatically check outgoing messages

o Maintenance options can keep your system running efficiently

o The Send options allow your address book to capture addresses you respond to

• File electronically

o Set up folders for key topics; file messages after responding

o Delete messages no longer needed; clear your in-box daily or weekly

o Keep your In-box for unanswered messages

o Be decisive

• Save trees - avoid printing unless you need to view messages away from your computer

• Stay safe

o Keep virus checking software switched on and updated

o Don't open emails or attachments from unknown recipients

o Backup regularly

o Use a spam filter – check regularly for messages misfiled

• Discipline is needed to avoid email interrupting other work

o Switch of the ‘You have new mail' sound

o Decide frequency of message checking

o Check and respond to messages in batches

• To sort messages eg to identify messages from a particular sender

o Click column top to sort messages by date or alphabetically

o Click again to reverse the order

o Click on the ‘Received' column to return to original view

• Anger-provoking emails do occur

o Delay before responding

o Avoid venting your anger in your response

• Although some services offer email advice to patients, security issues and delayed response times mean email is not yet ideal for patient consulting1 2.

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