Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Communicating with Patients via Email: Dos and Don'ts

Whether you're a dazzling doctor, noble nurse, or any other brilliant healthcare professional, connecting with your patients meaningfully is key to building trust and ensuring their well-being. One incredible tool you have at your disposal is good old emails.

Picture a patient sitting comfortably at home, maybe feeling a tad uneasy about a recent test result or having questions about their medication. Instead of contacting your VoIP telephone and enduring a never-ending hold music symphony, they decide to take matters into their own hands and email you. It's convenient, lightning-fast, and opens up a direct line of communication between the patient and healthcare professional.

But here's the thing. Speaking to your patients over email requires a certain level of finesse and attention to detail. You want to make sure your messages not only maintain a professional tone but effectively convey the right information while creating a positive patient experience.

In this complete guide, we're going to talk about some dos and don'ts when you’re chatting with your patients. By sticking to these guidelines, you can navigate the world of email communication like a true pro.

Learn more about actual preferences of your patients and make right decisions via Management Reporting Module at Medesk.

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Five Dos of Communicating with Patients via Email

First up, let's explore some essential dos when you're communicating via email. These practical tips will help you establish a professional and compassionate connection with your patients.

#1. Use a professional email address

Professionalism is key when you connect with your patients over email. You want to create a trustworthy and credible image reflecting your healthcare provider role. One way to do this is by using a professional email address that aligns with your domain name.

When reaching out to your patients, don't use a generic email address like "johnsmith@gmail.com". Instead, opt for something like "drsmith@healthcareclinic.com" or "yourname@medicalcenter.org." Doesn't that sound more official and reliable?

TIP: Wondering where to buy domain names? Then check out this handy guide.

#2. Address the patient by name

Suppose you've just got an email from your doctor that starts with something generic like "Dear patient." It doesn't exactly make you feel special or valued, does it?

Instead, take the time to find out and use the patient's name. Begin your email with a warm and personalized greeting, such as "Hello, Mr. Johnson" or "Hi, Sarah." By doing so, you immediately establish a connection and show you recognize and value them as an individual.

Addressing the patient by name goes beyond a mere formality. It demonstrates that you see them as people with unique stories, concerns, and needs. It also helps build trust and rapport, as they feel acknowledged and understood personally.

At Medesk, information about each patient is stored in an individual electronic medical record. It allows you to continuously monitor the process of his treatment.

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Incorporating their name throughout the email can further strengthen this personal touch, showing you’re actively engaging with them and tailoring your communication to their situation.

So, the next time you compose an email, take that extra moment to address your patients by name and make them feel seen and valued throughout their healthcare journey.

#3. Respond promptly and within a reasonable timeframe

Whether it's an urgent matter that requires immediate attention or a non-urgent inquiry, strive to reply to patient emails within a reasonable timeframe. While the former should be addressed as quickly as possible, even non-urgent messages deserve a timely response. This shows patients their concerns are acknowledged, and they’re not left waiting indefinitely for a reply.

Patients appreciate knowing that their healthcare provider is attentive and responsive. When you message back quickly, you create a sense of reassurance that their needs are being taken seriously. This also helps prevent any unnecessary anxiety or uncertainty that may arise from prolonged periods of waiting.

Of course, responding swiftly doesn't mean sacrificing the quality or thoughtfulness of your response. Take the time to provide clear and helpful information, addressing their questions or concerns to the best of your ability.

Even if you don't have an immediate answer, acknowledging their email and providing a timeframe for a more detailed response can go a long way toward maintaining open lines of communication.

#4. Use a polite and empathetic tone

In the same way you’re nice to your patients when they come to see you in person, your tone over email can influence how your message is received and how you come across. While emails lack non-verbal cues, you can still convey empathy and compassion through your written words by adopting a polite and sympathetic tone.

Use courteous language and considerate phrasing throughout your email exchanges. Treat each interaction as an opportunity to demonstrate understanding and compassion toward your patients' concerns or questions. Acknowledge their emotions and reassure them you’re there to support them on their healthcare journey.

By using a polite tone, you create a positive and supportive environment where patients feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and sharing their experiences. Keep in mind that patients may be feeling various emotions when reaching out via email. They could also be sending out patient complaints, which means they’re likely to be angry or on edge.

Your empathetic tone can help alleviate their concerns and provide reassurance. Show genuine empathy by actively listening to their needs and responding in a way that validates their feelings.

#5. Include contact information for follow-up questions

Let's now talk about keeping the lines of communication open. Encouraging patients to reach out with follow-up questions is a fantastic way to ensure they feel supported and empowered. And guess what? You can make it super easy for them by including your contact information in your email.

In your email signature, go ahead and share your preferred contact methods. This could be a direct phone number where they can reach you or an extension that connects them to your helpful team. You can even provide a dedicated email address if that works best for you. Doing this gives patients a direct line, so they can connect with you whenever they have additional inquiries or need a little extra clarity.

Why is this important? It's all about fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and support. When patients know they can easily get in touch with you, it encourages them to ask follow-up questions, seek more information, or share any concerns they might have. You’re essentially telling them, "Hey, I'm here for you whenever you need me."


Five Don'ts of Communicating with Patients via Email

As we continue on our quest toward effective email communication with patients, navigating pitfalls and avoiding common mistakes is key. On that note, here are five don'ts to keep in mind when connecting with patients.

Learn from these blunders to ensure your email exchanges remain professional, respectful, and patient-centered.

#1. Don’t use unsecured or personal email accounts

Here's the deal: using unsecured or personal email accounts for patient communication is a big no-no. You need to make sure your patient’s data is safe and sound, after all.

Consider registering a .ai domain so you can create an email address that's professional and reflects your role as a healthcare provider. This is essentially like locking the doors and windows to keep out any potential intruders.

When you register .ai domain, you're choosing reliability and trustworthiness. This is a mark of professionalism that not only safeguards patient data but enhances your overall image as a healthcare provider. Plus, it's a great way to show patients you take their privacy seriously and are committed to providing a secure environment for their healthcare needs.

#2. Don't share unnecessary or excessive medical details

Now, let's talk about striking the right balance when it comes to sharing medical information in your email communications. You want to make sure you're providing the facts patients need without overwhelming them with unnecessary or excessive details.

While it's essential to offer relevant information, resist the temptation to go overboard. Remember, the people you’re messaging are not healthcare experts like you, and too much technical information might confuse or overwhelm them.

So, how do you find that sweet spot? It's all about focusing on the key points. Think about what matters most to the patient and address their concerns directly. Provide clear and concise explanations they can easily understand. Break down complex concepts into simpler terms, and use examples or analogies to make them relatable. The goal is to ensure the information you share is digestible and meaningful to them.

That doesn't mean you should withhold essential information: if there are important details patients need to know, go ahead and share these. Just make sure you strike a balance by offering additional explanations only when necessary or specifically requested by the patient.

#3. Don't use abbreviations or medical jargon without an explanation

Imagine you receive an email from a mechanic after your car breaks down, and it's filled with abbreviations and complicated jargon you don't understand. How would you feel? Confused and frustrated, right? The same goes for your patients.

When talking with them, it's important to remember that not everyone is familiar with medical abbreviations and jargon. That's why avoiding using these terms (unless you first provide clear explanations) is crucial.

Think of it this way: if you're writing an email and want to mention a common medical abbreviation like "MRI", instead of assuming the patient knows what it stands for, take a moment to spell it out and provide some context.

It's not just about abbreviations: medical jargon can be a barrier to effective communication as well. While you might be well-versed in these terms, your patients may not be. So, try to simplify medical terms and explain them in plain, everyday language that everyone can understand.

#4. Don't rely solely on email for complex discussions

While emails are convenient, it's important to recognize their limitations—especially when it comes to complex discussions with patients. Sometimes, certain topics require more than just written words on a screen. That's why relying solely on email for them may not be the most effective approach.

For example, sharing complicated or emotive medical information might be better done through face-to-face conversations or video calls. These forms of direct communication allow for real-time interaction, so you can provide a more comprehensive explanation, address concerns more effectively, and gauge the patient's emotional state and reactions.

You will be able to conduct online patient appointments directly in Medesk. There is no need to use personal numbers, employee contacts or third-party programs. Within the platform, all actions and connections are performed on behalf of your clinic.

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Of course, email can still play a valuable role in these situations, being used to schedule appointments, follow up on previous discussions, or provide general information. However, when it comes to more nuanced or emotionally charged conversations, prioritizing direct communication is key to ensuring clarity, understanding, and empathy.

#5. Don't forget to proofread and double-check recipients

We've all experienced that moment of panic where we realize we've made a mistake in an email or sent it to the wrong person. It happens to the best of us, but taking precautions is essential to avoid such mishaps.

Before you eagerly click the send button, make it a habit to proofread your emails. Give them a thorough read-through to catch any typos, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing that might have slipped in. By taking this extra step, you can ensure your message is clear, coherent, and error-free.

Proofreading isn't the only thing to think about. It's equally important to double-check the recipient. Sending sensitive or confidential information to the wrong person can result in some pretty hefty consequences, so before you send out your next patient email, take a second to verify that you've selected the right person from your contact list. Be extra careful when using autofill or auto-suggest features, as these can sometimes lead to unintended selections.


Final Thoughts

Chatting with your patients over email isn't just about being professional—it's about creating connections, showing you care, and ensuring everyone feels heard.

Use these tips as your golden rules, and you'll be well on your way to swapping sterile, corporate emails for warm, welcoming messages that put a smile on your patients' faces. Plus, you’ll be protecting patient data at the same time.

In our tech-driven world, it’s time to make every email count, strengthening that precious bond between healthcare provider and patient one message at a time.

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