Ontario Psychological Association
Technology has been changing communication between psychological service providers and
patients, referral sources, other healthcare providers and third-party payers. Members may be
aware of websites, applications, and email communication tools that can be used to improve the
delivery of patient care. Many of us use email extensively because it is fast, reliable, and
convenient. These same characteristics, however, bring legal and liability risks, including a
higher potential for privacy breaches.
As regulated health professionals, we have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of our
patients' personal health information (PHI) and to comply with privacy regulations (see
Appendix A). Members need to consider how to communicate with and about patients while still
protecting patient privacy. While email is fast and convenient, it also is often the least secure and
the least private way to communicate.
We are aware that many larger healthcare and academic settings now have policies stating that
email should not be used to transmit any PHI. We are also aware that general guidelines for use
of email suggest that it is not a secure form of communication for any personal information. Most
guidelines for general email use suggest that information that is sensitive, confidential,
potentially embarrassing, proprietary, personal, or classified should never be sent through email.
While members practicing within healthcare and academic settings may be familiar with their
institution’s policies, those in community-based practice may not be as familiar with regulations
and expectations regarding electronic communication. To clarify the responsibilities of members,
the Ontario Psychological Association’s Communication and Member Services Committee is
providing the following Guidelines for Best Practices in Electronic Communications.
The entire helpful guide is here.