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How to Send Mass Email to Patients in OSCAR

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Documentation Copyright © 2023 Adrian Starzynski

OSCAR doesn’t have a built-in mass-email feature so you need to export the email addresses of the patients from OSCAR into your email software. Here are the steps…

RBT Tutorial

Follow the RBT tutorial/steps to generate your own custom query.

SMTP Sender Provider

For the cheapest email sending which also includes DKIM/domain identity verification (so it doesn’t go to spam) is Amazon SES (simple email service) which provides you with simple SMTP credentials that you can use to send and the limits for Amazon SES are in the thousands of emails per day so you won’t need to worry about that. If you try sending mass email with Gmail/other consumer email providers, they have limits of around 50 emails per day so you need to get proper SMTP provider for sending mass emails (Amazon SES is great but there are also many others).

Custom Email Per Patient (with variables)

Step 1: Extracting from the OSCAR Database

You need to get the email addresses, names, and any other patient-specific information you want to include in the email, from the OSCAR database. For example, for a mass email to patients you will probably want to address each person by name so you will at least need the email and first_name fields from the demographic table. If you’re sending out appointment reminders then you would want to pull the patient_name, email from the demographic table and the upcoming appointments linked to the demographic number from the appointment table.

To get this information you need to create an RBT that queries the information from the OSCAR database and allows you to export it to a spreadsheet (CSV/XLS).
There already is an RBT for sending appointment reminder emails that you can use/customize.

Example fields from the demographic table that are used for mass emails:
first_name, last_name, email, phone (home phone), roster_status (whether the patient is rostered: RO), patient_status (whether the patient is active: AC), provider_no (the OSCAR provider ID # of the patient’s MRP)

Make sure that you export the query result into a CSV/XLS file (depending on what the mail merge software in step 2 requires).

Step 2: Mass Email Sending Software

You need to do a bit of research for this step… There are thousands of Mail Merge clients available. The mail merge program will need you to setup SMTP authentication (enter the SMTP server, port, credentials from your SMTP provider).

Be mindful of regulations regarding sending of PHI over email as they vary based on province.

Step 3: Send the Mail Merge

The mail merge software will allow you to create a template to send email to each email address in your spreadsheet and include variables.

For example:

Dear {first_name},
This is to notify you that our clinic hours have changed to 123456…….
The phone number we have on file for you is {phone}. If this is incorrect please notify our office immediately to ensure we can reach you.

Find Tutorial for your Mail Merge Software

A quick Google/YouTube search will return hundreds of results for “how to send mass mail merge from a spreadsheet”

For example, it is easy with Outlook, Word, Excel:

Easy Method for Sending the Same Email to Everyone

  1. In your email client (i.e. Thunderbird), sign in with your bulk sending SMTP provider credentials.
  2. Create a generic message that you want to send out, save as a draft.
  3. Export the email address for patients you want to send to from the demographic table into a spreadsheet.
    i.e. to send to all ACTIVE patients, run an RBT for “select email from demographic where patient_status=’AC'”
  4. Open the spreadsheet and click on the title of the email column (for select all contents of column), hold the command/control key (command if on Mac, control on other operating systems), deselect the first cell of the column (the column title “email”), COPY to clipboard (so all the emails are copied to the clipboard), release the command/control key.
  5. Open the email draft in your email client software, and PASTE the email addresses into the BCC field.
  6. Send

With this method, all recipients will receive the same message. Be sure to paste the emails into BCC field otherwise you’ll expose all your patients’ email addresses.

Bottom Line

It’s especially important to be careful when sending bulk emails to patients. It is easy to accidentally send out the wrong details to a few thousand patients or to expose PHI.

It is best practice to keep the email content as short as possible and limit repetition with patient details, to avoid confusion for yourself when sending the mail merge to avoid the wrong patient getting the wrong name salutation etc.

Be careful when uploading your spreadsheet to cloud services like Google Sheets (privacy). I prefer to use offline tools like Excel to process spreadsheets with patient emails etc. so it is easy to manage.

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