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Where have all the copy letters gone? A review of current practice in professional-patient correspondence

Baxter, S., Farrell, K., Brown, C. and Davies, H. (2008) Where have all the copy letters gone? A review of current practice in professional-patient correspondence. Patient Education and Counseling, 71 (2). pp. 259-264. ISSN 0738-3991

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OBJECTIVE: This article reviews the literature in relation to patients receiving copies of health professional correspondence. It examines progress in adopting the practice 3 years on from its introduction as policy in the UK, and considers potential benefits and obstacles to implementation. METHODS: A review of the literature on copy correspondence, accessed via Medline, PubMed, CINAHL and also online resources, using the search terms "patient letter", "copy letter", "copy correspondence" and "doctor letter". RESULTS: Studies describe a range of benefits from copying letters, but implementation remains inconsistent, ranging from 8 to 87% of patients reporting receiving copy correspondence. A number of concerns are identified which may be delaying whole scale adoption of the policy by health professionals. CONCLUSION: This review suggests that researchers should move from examining the benefits and concerns around copying letters to patients, and instead focus on exploring the quality of correspondence and the optimum process of implementing the practice. As patients can "opt out" of receiving copy correspondence, audit of service delivery may be better assessed by whether patients have been offered a letter, rather than the current measure of whether one has been received. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Copying letters to patients may have a number of important benefits and should be routine practice where patients wish to receive correspondence. Further discussion regarding the style and content of letters would be beneficial, together with attention paid to the mechanisms for recording patient preference. There is also a need for studies in non-medical professions.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. This is an author produced version of a paper published in 'Patient Education and Counseling'. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: Copy correspondence; Letters; Patient–physician relationship; Communication; Patient education; Patient-centred care
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > School of Health and Related Research (Sheffield) > Section of Public Health (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Unnamed user with email s.k.baxter@sheffield.ac.uk
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2010 15:29
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:00
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2007.12.002
Status: Published
Publisher: Elsevier
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.pec.2007.12.002
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10564

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