There are three main types of email and knowing the differences can help you choose the best for your needs.
Colleagues have complained that they do not feel in control of their email, always missing messages or being unable to read them.
At work everyone is moving over to NHSmail. If you have not already switched over, you are likely to in the next year or so.
I have come to like NHSmail and now use it as my main work email. At home, however, GPs have several choices and this brief guide might help you keep better track of messages.
This is the standard for a lot of home broadband suppliers. Think of POP3 like a letter. When you check your mail with your email client, such as Outlook, you take the letter out of the postbox, which is fine if you only want to check your email from one place.
However, if you want to check it at work and on your mobile, whichever device checks the mail first gets to keep it and the others do not know about it.
If you ever need to reread an email, you will have to remember which device you read it on. You can set the mailbox to give you a copy of the mail but then each device will get a copy of everything and you will not be able to tell which you have read already.
There is a better type of email called IMAP. If you are given the choice, as on Google Mail, you should select IMAP as all your email is synchronised between devices so they know which mail you have read, replied to or deleted.
NHSmail is an example of the third type that is based on Microsoft Exchange and it is a proprietary system similar to IMAP.
It has some extra clever features like a special mode for mobile devices. It also comes with notes, calendar and contacts and enterprise features for multiple users.
All three types usually have web interfaces so, as long as you have an internet connection, seeing your email should not be a problem.
When choosing your home email solution shop around and do not just rely on your internet service provider's POP3 service.
You can set up a full exchange system for a few pounds each month, though you might just want to try your hand with NHSmail first.
- Dr Paul is a GP in Cheshire