Physician E-Mail Sends a Clear Message

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , September 15, 2010
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Physicians need to end their resistance to patient e-mail.

Editor's note: This piece is adapted from Gienna Shaw's August 3 column, Physicians: Get Over Your Fear of Electronic Messaging.

The more effectively patients and physicians can communicate the better healthcare will be. And that includes better electronic communications, such as by e-mail. Yes, I understand doctors' concerns that it would take up too much of their time—uncompensated time at that—and expose them to liability and leave an electronic trail of typos. But I believe that deep down inside they also know it is the right thing to do.

Resistance from physicians is hard to overcome, but one recent study might give them a push in the right direction. In a study of 35,423 people with diabetes, hypertension, or both, the use of secure patient-physician e-mail messaging was associated with a statistically significant improvement in effectiveness of care during a two-month period, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs. Effectiveness was measured by the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set.

In addition to better care, these findings might sway physicians: 

  • An improvement of 2.0 to 6.5 percentage points in performance of other HEDIS measures such as cholesterol and blood pressure screening and control
  • The ability to replace some outpatient visits, thus improving the efficiency of care

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