As tempting as it is to send clinical queries via email, the practice can risk a privacy breach. Alberta Health services (AHS) provides clinicians with tools for secure transmission of clinical information via email, including encrypted email to external (non-AHS) addresses. These should be used in all health service contexts where AHS has responsibility for the legal record of care. Such records can be paper-based, AHS supported Electronic Medical Records or any of the AHS clinical information systems (CIS).
When to Protect Communications
Transitory communications (e.g. request to meet) do not require secure transmission if they do not contain information that might identify a patient. Non-transitory communications about patients and the care they receive (e.g., clinical images) must be protected and recorded or referenced in the record of care.
How to Protect Communications
Clinicians interacting with patients via email or messaging systems should use the most secure and integrated system available:
Connect Care Messaging
Use messaging solutions within Connect Care when both sender and recipient have access. This includes clinicians who do not use Connect Care as the record of care but have access to the Provider Portal.
AHS Secure E-Mail
If both sender and receiver have AHS email addresses (@albertahealthservices.ca or @ahs.ca or @covenanthealth.ca or @albertapprecisionlabs.ca), then clinical communications can be securely sent and received using AHS email.
If the sender has an AHS email address but the receiver does not, then add “!Private” to the subject line so the email message is encrypted.
External Approved Solution
If none of the above are appropriate for clinical communication, consider use of an external clinical secure messaging solution that meets Health Information Act requirements. Some have been approved for use with AHS records; to be replaced when Connect Care and its patient portal are fully implemented province-wide. An instance of the BrightSquid secure messaging system is available to Alberta physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic at no cost and can be used with no other AHS-provisioned system is available or appropriate.