Docs Balk, But Email Improves Patient Experience

Less than one-third of doctors reported emailing with patients in 2012. This number is dismal and it's the marketer's job to improve it, because patient emails come with a number of benefits.

5 comments on "Docs Balk, But Email Improves Patient Experience"
Laura Marshall (4/8/2013 at 11:41 AM)

Ask the folks at Kaiser Permanente; their secure patient portal has been up and running for years now and from what I knew when I worked with their HIT folks in Oakland, the system worked well for patients AND physicians, cutting the amount of time office staff spent returning phone calls and reducing workload overall. Patients loved it, kept in touch better with their doctors, and it saved time all around.
Kristin Baird, RN, BSN,MHA (4/8/2013 at 7:40 AM)

Marianne, I'm glad you wrote about this issue. Email with physicians has been essential for me as I manage my mother's increasingly complex healthcare. Using the function in conjunction with the other portal features allows me to stay up on her results and pose non-urgent questions. I think that helping patients understand the difference between non-urgent and urgent issues will help. Marketers and practice managers will help facilitate the physician's comfort by establishing processes for efficiently screening emails for the physician.
Art Gross (4/6/2013 at 8:22 AM)

@Kay I agree that all communications with patients need to be secure and HIPAA compliant. I also agree with you about the complexities and costs of Patient Portals. However, encrypted secure email is easy to setup and cost less than $100 per account per year. Sending encrypted emails is as easy as sending regular emails. And all communication between a physicians office and patient is encrypted, secure and fully HIPAA compliant. The good news is that secure communication with patients is here today.
Kay Kirkpatrick, MD (4/4/2013 at 2:45 PM)

it's a nice theory but unsecured email is a HIPAA violation and patient portals are complicated and expensive to install. All of us would like to communicate with our patients by email but doing it securely is a work in progress and a few years away from widespread availability.
Lisa Sams RNC, MSN (4/4/2013 at 10:43 AM)

This is a complex issue as Kevin MD points out in her article. Email is a tool of the 21century and I agree it could speed up communication, but there are unintended consequences to this activity. The example of sharing lab value info is a case in point. Not every patient will be able to understand the significance....or lack of it....for values outside of the norms. We can raise anxiety levels needlessly w/o discussion. One quick solution to the phone tag issue is to use email as a tool to commit the clinician to a time for call. A designated nurse could be assigned a time block every day to do those follow up calls on lab reports etc. Then you have humans communicating. Patient engagement is key and email is but one tool. If it is to be used effectively guidelines are needed.


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