Encryption not a burden when communicating with patients

LETTER — Posted Sept. 24, 2007

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Regarding "Privacy a problem for patient e-mails," which appeared with the article, "E-mail means fewer patient calls and visits" (Article, Aug. 27): I disagree with the notion that encrypting e-mails deters patients from communicating with their doctor online. In 2005, I launched a Web site that lets my patients register, schedule appointments, request refills and exchange messages with me on routine matters like the results of their latest lab tests.

As a prominent HIPAA law firm directed, the site is housed on a secure server, and patients must log in with a user name and password to access its features. At this writing they've done so more than 12,000 times.

Far from discouraging them, my patients appreciate the security that encryption provides. When I leave them a message (or respond to one they've left for me), patients receive a system-generated message that says, "You have an important online message from Dr. Stark. Please log in here to read it."

I have formed a company to build encrypted sites for other physicians.

If your patients can log in to a Web site to pay telephone bills or pick the movies they want from Netflix, they can just as easily do so to get the results of their cholesterol tests. Mine have done it for nearly two years without confusion or complaint.

Howard A. Stark, MD, Washington, D.C.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2007/09/24/edlt0924.htm.

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