As of April 1, 2017, this administrative policy applies to the operations and staff of legacy
UWHC. Effective July 1, 2015, the legacy operations and staff of UWHC and UWMF were integrated
into the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority (UWHCA). All administrative policies
are being transitioned to apply UWHCA-wide, but until future revision to this policy #6.32, it applies
only to the operations and staff of legacy UWHC.
6.32 Provider-Patient E-mail
UWHC Administrative Policy
April 1, 2017
Medical Records (Hospital Administrative)
To establish a process for health care providers to utilize when communicating with patients via e-mail.
A. UWHC health care providers are not required or encouraged to correspond by e-mail with
patients However, if they choose to do so, health care providers must
1. Inform patients about the process and risks of communicating by e-mail by providing them with
the Appendix; and
2. Take reasonable measures to safeguard the content and transmission of the e-
mail communication; and
3. Ensure that relevant correspondence gets sent to Health Information Systems (Medical Records)
4. Avoid urgent/emergent communications by e mail.
A. Before initiating e-mail correspondence with a patient, both the patient and the health care provider must
agree to it, and the UWHC health care provider must provide the patient a copy of the Provider-Patient E-
mail, Information for Patients (Appendix A). If the patient initiates e-mail correspondence prior to an
opportunity to discuss e-mail as an option, the health care provider should e-mail or mail a copy of the
Provider-Patient E-mail, Information for Patients. Receipt and acceptance of the Provider-Patient E-mail
Document, Information for Patients demonstrates agreement to communicate via e-mail.
B. If a health care provider decides to communicate with a patient, the following procedures should be
1. The health care provider should reply to the patient within two to three business days. If it takes
longer to determine a response, you should send a short reply to acknowledge that you received
the original message.
2. If the health care provider is away from the office (conference, vacation, leave of absence etc.),
an auto-reply should be set up, which will notify correspondents that the individual is not
available to answer e-mail (unless the health care provider plans to access his/her e-mail daily
while away or otherwise makes other arrangements for daily monitoring of e-mail).
3. Copies of the following e-mail correspondence with the patient name and MR number must be
forwarded (either by interdepartmental mail or by e-mail to at email@example.com) to Health
Information Systems (Medical Records) or entered directly into the EMR by copying and pasting
into a Health Link Note.
a. Notification of test results
b. Treatment or follow-up recommendations
c. Patient reports about their progress, response to treatment, etc.
d. Informed consent process discussions with the patient about a treatment or procedure.
4. Graphs, links, and attachments may be a problem for some patients. It is best to send simple
text messages unless you are sure the patient has the software to deal with complex messages.
5. If the health care provider accesses e-mail from home, they must insure that other household
members do not have access the e-mail. Any copies that are printed at home must either be
placed in the patient's medical record or shredded.
6. Do not forward provider-patient e-mail communications to a third party (outside of UW Health)
without the permission of the patient or the patient's legally authorized representative. Doing so
may constitute a "disclosure" of protected health information and may be subject to UWHC
Administrative Policy and Procedure 4.13, Using and Disclosing Protected Health Information.
Sr. Management Sponsor: CIO
Author: Director, Health Information Management
Review/Approval Committees: Medical Record Committee, UW Health Clinical Policy and Procedure Committee,
Peter Newcomer, MD
Chief Clinical Officer
J. Scott McMurray, MD
Chair, UW Health Clinical Policy Committee