Should doctors communicate by email with patients?

by on March 31, 2013

Should patient communications by email be considered part of normal care or a time-waster fraught with potholes? A recent survey covers a gamut of doctor and patient experiences, laying out its pros and cons related to patient care, marketing, costs and legal implications.

Less than 1/3 of U.S. doctors report that they exchange emails with patients, up 27% from five years ago. Those using text messages have risen from 12% to 18% between 2010 and 2012, according to CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.

  • Some doctors find it saves them time and money since it prevents annoying phone tag or helps direct patients to better Google search results and information.
  • Patients say they love timely access to their doctors. Doctors reported a positive improvement in their online reputation.
  • Of course, HIPAA compliance is the most commonly mentioned negative, since privacy and security must be tightly managed and there remain concerns about liability, inconvenience, potential miscommunication and time required.

Overall, just 5.5% of patients surveyed stated they used email to communicate with a health care provider in 2012. This is just a slight rise from 4.6% in 2009.

Source:   WallStreet Journal/When-email-is-part-of-the-doctors-treatment

What value do you think email communications have in a healthcare practice? What impediments stand in the way of using email with patients,  if any?

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