Electronic Communication policy

Phone calls, Emails and SMS – For patients


SMS
Our patients will be given the option of being contacted by electronic means such as via email
and/or SMS.
It is acknowledged by the practice that consent is implied if the patient initiates electronic
communication with the practice.
The signed consent on the registration form will be scanned and recorded in the patient electronic
record and their response recorded on the practice software.
The consent form will state that the practice may use this mode of communication:
 to send reminders for a scheduled appointment.
 when the patient needs to make an appointment to review a test result.
 as a reminder that a generic preventative screening test (for example, flu vaccine, skin-check,
cervical screening) is due.
Further information will state that the practice:
 cannot guarantee confidentiality of information transferred via email (if using encryption, please
state how your encryption works).
 will comply with the Australian Privacy Principles and the Privacy Act 1988.
 communications will not contain sensitive information, due to the risk of confidential
information being accessed inadvertently or intentionally by a third party.
 communications will not contain results that only the general practitioner should be divulging in
a follow-up appointment, i.e. abnormal results, education concerning a new diagnosis, etc.
 communication will not entail promotion of any product and/or preventative health care (as
some patients can interpret this as an advertisement)
 When recalling a patient for a test result, the extent to which patients are followed up will depend
on the level of urgency and the clinical significance of their test results. If the patient has not
responded to the SMS in 3 working days, then registered mail letter is sent
 SMS between the practice and the patient will form part of the medical record and need to be
included, as must any actions taken in response to the message. Our medical software records
SMS records and we document when an email is sent


Email
 emails will be answered within 24 business hours (also included in the automatic email
response).
 patients should not use email to contact the practice in an emergency (also included in the
automatic email response).
Our practice email account for patients and stakeholders for non-urgent communication with our
practice is admin@forestlakelocaldoctors.com.au
This email account will the routinely checked throughout the business day by the reception staff
member working that day
 at the start of business
 midday
 one hour before end of business
The email message will then be forwarded to the appropriate team member for response.
Communication conducted with a patient via electronic means will be added to the patient’s medical
record by the team member resolving the enquiry.
 Emails between the practice and the patient will form part of the medical record and need to be
included, as well as any actions taken in response to the message.  Forest Lake Local Doctors will
document when an email is received and sent.


Return calls
An incoming telephone call is the principal method for initial and subsequent communication by a
patient and most other persons in this practice. As such the telephone is recognised as a vital vehicle
for creating positive first impression, displaying a caring, confident attitude and acting as a
reassuring resource for our patients and all others.
Staff are aware of alternative modes of communication used by patients with a disability or language
barrier. (See “Non-English-speaking background patients).
Staff are mindful of confidentiality and respect the patients right to privacy. Patient’s names are not
openly stated over the telephone within earshot of other patients or visitors.
This practice prides itself on the high calibre of customer service we provide, especially in the area of
patient security, confidentiality, and right to privacy, dignity and respect.
It is important for patients telephoning our practice to have the urgency of their needs determined
promptly. Staff are to obtain adequate information from the patient to assess whether the call is an
emergency before placing the call on hold.
Staff are trained initially, and on an ongoing basis, to recognise urgent medical matters and the
procedures for obtaining urgent medical attention. Reception staff have been informed of when
calls should be put through to nursing or medical staff for clarification.
Staff are aware of each doctor’s policy on accepting or returning calls.
Patients at our practice are able to access a doctor by telephone to discuss their clinical care.
Messages taken for later follow-up are documented for the doctor’s action and attention through
intramial.
Administration staff does not give treatment or advice over the telephone, unless having been
instructed to do so by a doctor.
Results of tests are not given out over the phone
A phone answering message is maintained and activated to advise patients of how to access medical
care outside normal opening hours.


Procedure
 Pick up the receiver within three rings and state: Good morning/afternoon, Forest Lake Local Doctors
, this is ………. how may I help you”?
 If on another line, ask the caller if they would mind holding for a minute while you answer
another call.
 When answering the second call ascertain that it is not urgent then ask them to wait and
return to the first caller.
 Under no circumstances should the second caller be asked to hold the line without
discussion as the matter may be urgent.
 A problem deemed by the patient, or an apprehensive parent to be urgent should always be
seen the same day if assessed to be reasonable. Chest pain, asthma or breathing difficulties,
abdominal pain, earache, migraine, stroke or mini stroke, vomiting/diarrhoea in small
children are all examples of problems that cannot be left to the next day. If in doubt always
consult with a Registered Nurse or a doctor.
 Never advise a patient to ring an ambulance, go to another doctor or emergency medicine
department without speaking to a doctor in this practice first.
 Do not leave any caller on hold for long periods, return to the call and reassure them that
you have not forgotten them.
 If a call involves seeking information that is not readily to hand offer to ring the caller back,
this will alleviate the patient’s anxiety and prevent engaging the telephone lines for long
periods of time.
 All telephone messages including requests for prescriptions should record the patient’s
name, date and time of request and who took the call.
 If the call is about pathology or imaging results always pass this call onto the Nurse.
 Follow individual doctor’s policies regarding receiving and returning telephone calls.
 Document all significant telephone contact including after-hours contacts with the name and
contact number of the person calling, the date and time of the call, important facts
concerning the patient’s condition, the advice or information given to the patient and details
of any follow up calls or appointments offered to the patient.