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Almost half of Irish GPs ‘happy to communicate’ with patients via email

‘An Evaluation of a Secure Email Service (Healthmail): A Cross Sectional Survey of Irish GPs’ suggested that secure email communication might be acceptable to some Irish healthcare staff for some of these interactions.

However, the authors cautioned that further research was required due to legal implications and possible concerns among GPs about workload and payment.

In the UK, the use of email to contact patients is not obligatory, but is endorsed by the Department of Health and the Royal College of General Practitioners, the authors highlighted. 

Published in the Universal Journal of Public Health, the study surveyed 276 GP Healthmail account holders in early 2017. Healthmail is a secure email service used to transfer patient information.

Healthmail is currently used by GPs, GP support staff, pharmacies, nursing homes and optometrists, but many GPs would like to see the service expanded further to include other primary care healthcare professionals and hospitals.

The survey found engagement with Healthmail by hospitals and primary care healthcare professionals was highly recommended, with 78.3 per cent and 44.9 per cent of respondents, respectively, making the suggestion.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they communicate with GPs using Healthmail and 58 per cent said they would like to see Healthmail expanded.

“Education and training are essential to increasing uptake. Privacy is a key concern in the sharing and transfer of patient information, but Healthmail could provide an acceptable solution,” the authors noted.

Almost 5,000 individuals use Healthmail in Ireland every month. In August, more than 60,000 messages were sent and received via the system.

Healthmail, established in 2014, is a service of the Primary Care Directorate of the HSE, managed by eHealth Ireland and supported by the Department of Health, ICGP, Irish Pharmacy Union and Nursing Homes Ireland.

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