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The Doctors Company Provides Tips for Physicians to Minimize Risk While Practicing Medicine by Phone or E-mail
Date:1/21/2009

es of problems that are likely to require an office or emergency room visit.
  • Only physicians or qualified staff such as RNs, NPs, and PAs should provide telephone advice. Written protocols need to be prepared for office staff and should include what questions to ask, recommended responses for minor problems, and which calls to refer immediately to a doctor or schedule for an office appointment.
  • Give callers ample time to explain their problems. Avoid leading questions. For example, instead of asking, "Do you have any chest pain?" ask, "Exactly where do you feel pain?"
  • Ask the caller to repeat the instructions back to you.
  • Be careful about prescribing by phone, especially for new complaints. If your diagnosis is wrong, the medicine could be ineffective or even harmful.
  • Document calls for advice in the medical chart, using the caller's own words whenever possible. If one of your staff members handles and documents calls, review the notes to make sure the adviser followed guidelines and dispensed appropriate advice.

  • E-mail Best Practices:
    • Be careful what you write. Never put in an e-mail what you would not say in person.
    • E-mails should be focused and concise. Always check your spelling and grammar and never use all caps.
    • Incorporate your contact information in every message sent by using the automatic signature function in your e-mail software.
    • Never use abbreviations. When communicating with patients, abbreviations can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
    • Include a disclaimer. Communicate your ground rules for e-mail exchanges up front. A standard disclaimer might read as follows: "Electronic mail is not secure, may not be read every day, and should not be used for urgent or sensitive issues."
    • Maintain patient
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