Clinicians should take great care when using electronic mail to communicate about clinical work, especially messages that may contain identifiable patient information.
We look forward to Connect Care launch, as the clinical information system (CIS) has advanced clinical communications tools. These include email, text/chat, image capture and telehealth. Everything that happens within Connect Care stays within Connect Care. The physician and patient portals securely extend these clinical communication channels to those without full CIS access.
But what are we to do before Connect Care deployment is wide enough for all recipients to to receive? Before launch, and during transition periods when some but not all areas have launched, Alberta Health Services (AHS) secure email should be used for clinical communications.
Any email sent from one AHS address (ending with @ahs.ca or @albertahealthservices.ca or @covenanthealth.ca or @albertapubliclabs.ca) to another is automatically encrypted and acceptable for clinical communications.
An additional step is needed to protect email sent from an AHS address to a non-AHS address. It is easy. Just add "!Private" (remember the exclamation mark comes before, with no space, "private") anywhere within the email subject line. The recipient will receive instructions about how to decrypt the protected message. This will work even if there are attachments. And simply adding "!private" to the subject works with any email management software (e.g., Outlook, Apple Mail, Web mail, etc.).
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