I find that email is an effective way to communcate with my patients as long as certain issues regarding it's use are clearly understood.
1) Email is an inherently less private mode of communication than phone, fax or surface mail. While I make every effort to keep access to my computer and email servers private, I cannot guarantee total privacy of information sent to me by email or vice-versa.
2) Email is best used for "administrative" issues (scheduling appts, billing questions etc.) or minor clinical issues (clinical "updates", dosage adjustment, medication refills). It should not be used for important clinical questions or for "conversation" best suited to the phone or in person.
3) During the work week and between the hours of 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM, I check my email every 2-3 hours. During the weekend I check less often. I make an effort to reply to every email I receive within 24 hours. If you send me an email and I do not reply within this time-frame, it means I did not get it (or you did not get my reply). This means I am likely to be out of town or away from my computer or am having email problems. Check my voicemail which will let you know if I am out of the office.
4) I do not charge for email contacts unless there are extenuating circumstances or significant time is involved on my part.