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!