Email Policy

Emails Policy Our practice is mindful that even if patients have provided electronic contact details, they may not be proficient in communicating via electronic means and patient consent needs to be obtained before engaging in electronic communication. Electronic communication includes email, facsimile and Short Message Service (SMS). Communication with patients via electronic means is conducted with appropriate regard to privacy Procedure Our practice’s primary reason for communicating electronically to patients is to issue appointment reminders and we verify the correct contact details of the patient at the time of the appointment being made. Whilst not encouraged, our practice allows patients an opportunity to obtain advice or information related to their care by electronic means, but only where the general practitioner determines that a face-to-face consultation is unnecessary and that communication by electronic means is suitable. Our practice will only provide information that is of a general, non-urgent nature and will not initiate electronic communication (other than SMS appointment reminders) with patients. Any electronic communication received from patients is also used as a method to verify the contact details we have recorded on file are correct and up-to-date. Communication with patients via electronic means is conducted with appropriate regard to privacy. Before obtaining and documenting the patient’s consent, patients are fully informed verbally of the risks associated with electronic communication in that the information could be intercepted or read by someone other than the intended recipient.  Patients are advised  that email is not a secure form of communication and are asked to provide the email address they would like the practice to use (in the same way the practice asks for a contact phone number). When an email message is sent or received in the course of a person’s duties, that message is a business communication and therefore constitutes an official record. Patients are informed of any costs to be incurred as a result of the electronic advice or information being provided, and all electronic contact with patients is recorded in their health record. All members of the practice team are made aware of our policy regarding electronic communication with patients during induction, and are reminded of this policy on an ongoing basis. They are made aware that electronic communications could be forwarded, intercepted, printed and stored by others. Each member of the practice team holds full accountability for emails sent in their name or held in their mailbox, and they are expected to utilise this communication tool in an acceptable manner. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Limiting the exchange of personal emails
  • Refraining from responding to unsolicited or unwanted emails
  • Deleting hoaxes or chain emails
  • Email attachments from unknown senders are not to be opened
  • Virus checking all email attachments
  • Maintaining appropriate language within electronic communications
  • Ensuring any personal opinions are clearly indicated as such, and
  • Confidential information (e.g. patient information) must be encrypted.

Our practice reserves the right to check an individual’s email accounts as a precaution to fraud, viruses, workplace harassment or breaches of confidence by members of the practice team. Inappropriate use of the email facility will be fully investigated and may be grounds for dismissal. The practice uses an email disclaimer notice on outgoing emails that are affiliated with the practicestating “The information contained in this email communication is intended solely for the use of the addressee and may contain confidential or privileged information. You should only read, disclose, re-transmit, copy, distribute or act in reliance on or commercialise the information if authorised to do so. If you are not the intended recipient of this email communication, please notify us immediately by phoning 03 5762 1022 or by email to and then destroy any electronic or paper copy of this message. The Benalla Church Street Surgery does not guarantee that this communication is free of error, virus or inferference.” Ideally communication should be via secure messaging or encryption but this is generally not possible when emailing patients. The practice has an obligation to take reasonable steps to protect the privacy and security of information it holds including when it is transmitted or disclosed outside the organisation. The practice follows the RACGP recommendations to reduce the risk of interception of data and sending emails to incorrect addresses, including: verification of the patient’s email address ,obtaining patient consent  and the  use of secure messaging facilities between practices where available. Our practice has in place an automatic response in place advising that emails will be responded to within two business days. “Thank you for your email. If you are experiencing an emergency, please dial 000 immediately. We aim to reply to all emails within 2 business days. Please do not send clinical requests about medical information particularly those that are time critical as we can not respond to them in this way.”  The reception team is responsible for monitoring and managing responses to all emails received. The practice advises patients on our website and verbally not to send clinical information via email. We encourage patients to phone the practice or make an appointment to discuss clinical issues.    

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