Emails are a great way to remind your patients of their appointments. Some of the advantages of email reminders is that unlike text reminders, you can send a large amount of information, include links to other websites or downloadable forms, and include company branding such as your company logo, fonts, and colors.
HIPAA – If you are in the health care industry, I am sure you have heard of HIPAA. I am not going to dive extensively into this law in this post, but essentially it is a law that safeguards the storage and dissemination of PHI (Protected Health Information).
CAN-SPAM – This is a law regarding companies that send marketing or advertising emails. If you are a medical organization that is sending appointment reminder information only, then this law probably would not apply to you.
TCPA – The Telephone Consumer Protection Act covers telephone communications such as calls and text messages. Sending Email Appointment Reminders is not regulated under this law.
Before you start sending email reminders to your patients, you do need to check off a few things:
Most importantly, do you have permission to send an email reminder to your patient?
According to HHS.gov, reminders are part of a patient’s treatment and can be sent without prior consent. See the following link
However, HIPAA also states that a person has the right to be contacted by preferred alternative methods if reasonable ones exist. Providers may initiate communication with a patient via email and ideally state the risks and allow the patient to opt-out or choose an alternative method of communication if requested.
What information can you send?
As with all data transmission regarding HIPAA, the general rule is to send the minimum amount of information necessary to communicate the message. Whenever you are sending out appointment information, you can and should only send the following:
- Patient’s Name – Generally the First Name is sufficient to let the person know who the appointment is for.
- Who is the appointment with – You need to include the Dr or Practice name to let the patient know who the appointment is with.
- Appointment Date and Time – Make sure to include the appointment date and time so the patient knows when to show up.
Other information that is ok to send in the email can include
- Links to the practice website
- Links to download blank forms
- Practice contact information
You should never include the following information
- Type of appointment
- Other PHI
- Other PII (Personally Identifiable Information) such as patient’s address, phone number, SSN, etc…
You can use email as a method to remind your patients of their appointments. Just make sure always just send the minimal information necessary. Also, if the patient has requested not to be contacted via email or has specified a different method of communication, you should abide by that. As with most rules regarding HIPAA, a little common sense goes a long way. It is also a great idea to use a reputable HIPAA Compliant Reminder Service to send your email reminders. They will be able to help you set up your reminders and guide you in the right direction regarding what to send and when to send them.
Interesting Related Article: “How Important Is Email Deliverability?“