A brief conversation outside the "rushed and stressful" environment of the ED between patient and physician can also significantly improve the patient's impression of the ED experience, he adds.
In Patel's study, 42 emergency physicians either emailed or phoned 1,000 patients within 72 hours of being discharged from Kaiser. At least 87% expressed satisfaction about the follow-up contact. Those patients who were provided no follow-up also were satisfied, but not as many. This group had a 79% satisfaction rate.
That 8% difference can be significant in terms of patient satisfaction ratings. The findings show that patients would certainly feel better about their overall ED experience if they received follow-up, Patel says.
It's no secret that many physicians are reluctant to embrace technology, even if it's as simple as sending an email. But "patient satisfaction was higher when emergency physicians contacted patients briefly after their visit, either by e-mail or by telephone," the report states. "Given that emergency care is generally more rushed than inpatient care, the ED patient might have even more to gain," he says.
The Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Roseville, CA has begun using the e-mail and phone call system for ED physicians, says Patel. Kaiser Permanente uses a secure email system compliant with HIPAA, he says. The e-mail and call protocol "has become a standard of practice for most ED physicians in Northern California Kaiser," Patel says.