Improving Care by Emailing the Doctor

A study in the October issue of Pediatrics found that allowing patients to e mail their physicians improved their ease of access and their perception of the quality of care they received. Families who used this system also reported that they had a better understanding of their childs’ tests. The study reported that using e mail communication provided an answer, on average, 57% faster than use of the telephone.

It is no surprise that allowing doctor patient e mail improves care. I’ve been actively involved in this activity for over a decade (http://www.edocamerica.com. ) and have personally seen it benefit thousands of patients. The interesting thing is how long it is taking for this form of care to take off, and how many skeptics remain. Although a few insurance payors reimburse and have codes for “e visits”, the majority still don’t.

According to a Harris Interactive Poll, 83% of patients want to be able to email doctors, yet only 3% of physicians engage in e mail communication, citing reasons that include lack of reimbursement, concerns about opening up access, and potential liability issues.

But, as more studies like this one document improved quality, access and increased savings, it will slowly creep into the medical mainstream. And that can’t happen fast enough!

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Comments

2 Responses to “Improving Care by Emailing the Doctor”

  1. Susannah Fox says:

    Thanks, Charlie. I noticed that lots of ACOR members wrote to us about their email exchanges with doctors. I would like to see an email study that differentiates between specialists vs. general practitioners on the MD side and people dealing with serious, ongoing conditions vs. the “worried well.” I suspect that the e-patients with chronic disease are making some pretty compelling arguments about the need to keep in close touch with their doctors.

  2. Charlie Smith says:

    Good point. I agree. We are at such an early stage in the era of E patients that we know little about these differences, or even whether they exist to any great degree.

    Personally, I have found that there really isn’t much difference in what is requested to correspond with “worried well” v. patients with “ongoing conditions”. There are occasions that questions come in that can only be effectively be answered by subspecialists. Patients with complex cancers are certainly in that category.

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