E-Mail Etiquette Guidelines

Two doctors looking at a tablet
Ron Levine/Getty Images

Electronic communication is becoming more popular these days than phone calls, “snail” mail and, even in some instances, face-to-face meetings. In any professional setting including the medical office, it is important to consider several things when sending out emails to coworkers, patients, physicians, hospitals, vendors or other professionals.

People spend a large portion of their day opening and reading emails. Valuable time should not be wasted on ineffective and unimportant emails. The same professionalism you would use on the phone, mail correspondence or face-to-face should also be expressed in an email. Always remember that an email is a form of communication and the way in which the receiver interprets the message is the only thing that matters.

Before creating and sending an email, ask yourself several questions.

  • Is email the best form of communication for the information I am sending?
  • Is it professional?
  • Is it HIPAA compliant?
  • Does it accurately represent me and the medical office?

Rule #1

Do think about the content of your message before you press SEND. Make sure that email is the appropriate form of communication for your message instead of a phone call or a meeting. Keep in mind that the content should reflect the image and the level of professionalism expected of your Medical Office.

Don’t send, forward, or reply any email that contains obscene, offensive, slanderous, defamatory, racist or sexual nature. The penalties can be severe for you and the Medical Office.

Rule #2

Do use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Again, your message is a reflection of your Medical Office. Also, be sure to keep the message concise and use the proper layout for your message which makes it easier to read. Proofread your email before you hit SEND.

Don’t use ALL CAPS as this is considered yelling or screaming in the online world. Use bold or italics to emphasize a word or phrase. Also, avoid the using extremely fancy or strange fonts as this makes your email more difficult to read.

Rule #3

Do make sure the email is being sent to the appropriate recipient(s). Information in a Medical Office, especially related to patient information, should be shared on a need to know basis only. Also, consider that people may consider information not relevant to them as “junk mail”.

Don’t discuss personal and confidential information or attach patient files in an email. Use patient account numbers or medical record numbers to advise someone to review the account. Your information should be noted there.

Rule #4

Do reply to professional emails within 24 hours when possible. If that doesn’t give you enough time, at least respond to say that you have received the email and you will get back to them as soon as possible.

Don’t reply to spam or requests to subscribe/unsubscribe. This will only generate more spam which will flood your business email.

Rule #5

Do keep emotions out of emails. Be polite and professional. Know who you can be informal with after sufficient time has passed to build that type of relationship.

Don’t say anything in an email that you might regret later. Be careful when sending or responding to an email in anger. Never make personal comments about another person, make comments that would offend someone or say anything you wouldn’t say in person.

Rule #6

Do keep humor, jokes, and irony to a minimum. Intentions are often “lost in translation” in emails and people may not always get the joke. Think about it from the perspective of the recipient.

Don’t send, forward, or reply to chain letters. It is unprofessional behavior and some people view this as junk mail. Remember that any content you send should reflect the image and the level of professionalism expected of your medical office.

Was this page helpful?