Scenario - Record KeepingEmail Communication

Email Communication

You work in public health and communicate with a lot of clients by email. Some of those emails deal with individual health concerns (in some cases, concerns about third parties) and with sensitive matters (e.g. sexually transmitted diseases). What considerations arise here?

As a general rule, it is not acceptable to send personal health information through regular email. Acceptable options include obtaining the person's consent to use email, encrypt the email, or make the information anonymous. Sometimes consent can be inferred by the fact that the person has initiated the communication by email, or has asked the dietitian to respond by email.

However, the dietitian should ensure that the consent was informed, in that the recipient knows the sensitivity of the type of information that will be contained in the email. Also, keep in mind that the consent of the recipient does not apply to any third person discussed.

Retention of the email is another important issue. If the information in the email must be noted in the client file, for instance, a recommendation for a diet order, then a copy of the email must be kept on file. For example, if the client has follow-up questions or challenges your advice, having a copy of the email is important.