Welcome to ‘Compliance Corner.’ Every month, Nova Medical Centers‘ employees can find helpful reminders and useful tips to maintain quality standards across a variety of categories. Not an employee of Nova? That’s okay! These tips are helpful for anyone! This month we’re talking about email etiquette. Email has been around, what seems like, forever. Right? But are you communicating concisely through your business email?
According to a survey conducted by the UCLA center for Communication Policy (The UCLA Internet Report: Surveying the Digital Future, UCLA Center for Communication Policy, 2001) almost 88% of all internet users use email. The same survey also indicated that 90% use email for business purposes. At Nova, many employees at some point will use email to communicate internally or externally.
Do you use proper email etiquette? If you don’t, you may be sending the wrong message to your reader and this could reflect poorly on you and your department. Similarly to paper documents, email communication can impact compliance and quality standards. This is why it is important that when we communicate via email the information is clear and concise.
Here are some steps you can take to help you maintain compliance and quality standards when communicating by email:
Do not distribute Protected Health Information (PHI/ePHI) via email. If you must distribute PHI/ePHI to an outside recipient via email, including attachments with PHI, you must use the “7-Zip” program to encrypt the attachment prior to sending.
Always ensure that the approved confidentiality statement has been incorporated into all emails originating from your department for external distribution to Non-Nova entities. Get help from IT if you are not sure if the confidentiality disclosure is incorporated in your emails.
Don’t leave it blank. The goal is that the person can read your subject line and know what your email is about – (A bad subject line: Please Read – A good subject line: Compliance Meeting Agenda)
Manners and Tone
Think of the basic rules you learned growing up, like saying please and thank you. Address people you don’t know as Mr., Ms., or Dr. It is very difficult to express tone in writing. You want to come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable. You don’t want to sound curt or demanding. Sometimes just rearranging your paragraphs will help.
Be Clear and Concise
Get to the point of your email as quickly as possible, but don’t leave out important details that will help your reader answer your questions. Use bullets and white space to highlight the main points in an email but limit the use of bold font and underlining text, it can minimize the importance of your message. Avoid using CAPITAL letters in your email; it’s like shouting at your reader.
This means, stay away from abbreviations and acronyms. For example DOH in Human Resources means “Date of Hire” to others it may mean “Department of Health.” Don’t use emoticons (those little smiley faces). Avoid adding background and wall paper to your emails; it can be a distraction to the reader.
Use Correct Spelling and Proper Grammar
Use a dictionary or enable the auto spell check feature on your email account. Pay attention to basic rules of grammar. Reread your email prior to sending.
Out of Office
Utilize the out of office feature when you are out of the office for extended periods of time. Give the sender an alternate contact and the specific time you will return to the office.
Remember, emails are a permanent record of communication and should be viewed as a “memo” not as an “instant message.” Emails should be used as a means to effectively communicate with others. We should also take into account that email will not absolve you of responsibility, be selective and careful about what you put into an email, whether confidential business matters or personal information/opinions. If something is important or there is a break-down in the communication, pick up the phone or schedule time to meet in-person to resolve the issue.
Email is an effective form of communication but it should not replace all face-to-face communication; so the next time before you hit the “SEND” button keep in mind that e-mail offers speed of delivery, permanent storage, and easy replication. As such, we only want to communicate accurate, clear and concise information at all times