Email is a great way for a doctor to communicate with patients, despite it's drawbacks. In my practice, patients have been using email more and more frequently, and I think it is a good thing and welcome it. It makes me more accessible to my patients and is less intrusive on my own life. For example, in Father's Day, 2 patients had quick questions for non-emergent conditions and sent me emails. Since I have a habit of hitting "send/receive" every time I pass my MAC, i got the messages promptly and replied. No biggy. As I said, I like communication with email.
Here is how I deal with emails.
Patients are given the option to communicate by email, but they must sign an email consent form first. The consent discusses all the possible negative consequences of email communication and If you'd like mine, just shoot me an email.
When patients send me emails, I reply, then I save the initial question and my reply in the patients folder under correspondence. I save the email as a text file and date the file as well.
And that is it. Nothing fancy. Totally simple.