DENTAL PRACTICE ARTICLES
Are You Communicating with Your Patients by Email, Text Messaging or Social Media?
Is Your Dental Office Compliant with the Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) – You have until July 1, 2017 Effective July 1, 2014, a legislation came into effect. It is the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). The CASL creates a set of specific rules for email communications and marketing. This legislation affects any message that encourages commercialism, that includes communications through social media, text, and email.
What is spam?
Spam can be defined as any electronic commercial message sent without the express consent of the recipient(s). Spam is also used as the vehicle for the delivery of other online threats such as spyware, phishing and malware.
What is the intent of the law?
The intent of the law is to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam from occurring in Canada. Spam includes more than unsolicited commercial messages. It has become the vehicle for a wide range of threats to online commerce affecting individuals, businesses and network providers. It can lead to the theft of personal data to rob bank and credit card accounts (identity theft); online fraud luring individuals to counterfeit websites (phishing); the collection of personal information through illicit access to computer systems (spyware); and false or misleading representations in the online marketplace.
Businesses are victimized by the counterfeiting of business websites to defraud individuals and businesses (spoofing). Network providers—recognizing that spam represents 75 to 90 percent of all email traffic—are forced to invest ever-increasing resources to prevent spam from entering their networks. Once established, spam slows networks down, and spam-borne viruses and other malicious software (malware) are used to operate networks of “zombie” computers (botnets) without their owners’ knowledge. These network attacks threaten the stability of the Internet and online services.i
How does this legislation affect dental offices?
If you communicate with your patients through email, text messaging or social media, you now must have express consent to do so. You may already have implied consent since you have been communicating with your patients and have an existing business relationship. Implied consent lasts 2 years from the last contact of business. Implied consent, however, is not enough. You need to obtain express consent from your patients to continue communicating using these methods. Once you have express consent, it lasts forever.
What if you don’t have express consent?
Don’t worry, it’s not too late. It is important to note, that although the CASL legislation came into effect as of July 1, 2014, you have until July 1, 2017 to convert implied consent to express consent.
Here are some recommendations to obtain express consent.
- Prepare an email to all of your patients who have provided you with their email addresses or who have agreed to text messaging. Request that each patient confirms with you whether they wish to continue communicating with via email, i.e. “opt in” or “opt out” of further email communications. You must make it clear that the patients have the option of withdrawing their consent at any time. This is a very important aspect of providing consent. * see sample below *
- Keep a list of the patients who have opted in. Be sure to record the date that they consented. You could save this list on an Excel spreadsheet. Although this is time consuming, it is a very important step. You need to have proof of your patient’s consent in case you need to defend a complaint.
- As each of your patients come in for their dental appointments, ask them to sign an express consent form if they wish to communicate by email. Keep the signed consent forms on file, or if you have a chartless office, scan the consent form into the documents section of the patient’s chart.
- When new patients come to your practice, include express consent on your new patient registration form. For a sample of a new patient registration form that includes express consent for email communication, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “new patient registration form.”
- If you are using a service such as Smile Reminders or Demand Force, they most likely have taken care of this issue on your behalf, however, check with your representative to make sure that you are compliant with this new legislation.
Below is sample wording that you may wish to use on the email or on the written consent form:
Express Consent for Email, Text, Social Media Communication
If you decide to opt in and continue receiving emails, please know that you may opt out at any time and withdraw your consent.
Please click on one of the links below and in the subject line tell us your preference by simply typing Opt In or Opt Out.
Yes, I consent to receiving valuable information from ______Dental Office
No, thank you. I wish to opt out of future emails from_______ Dental Office
This legislation will require that dental offices take the time to obtain the appropriate consent forms to enhance the communications with patients who choose to be communicated with electronically, but it will be worth the effort. This intent of this legislation is to protect your patients and your business against online threats. For further information call 1-866-433-8499 or visit the Government of Canada website.
- source Government of Canada website, Digital Policy Branch
Author: Sandie Baillargeon