Many Patients With Chronic Conditions Using E-Mail as First Method of Clinician Contact

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A survey found that 56% of the patients had sent their doctor an e-mail within the past year, and 46% had used e-mail as the primary way to contact their doctor about medical issues.
A survey found that 56% of the patients had sent their doctor an e-mail within the past year, and 46% had used e-mail as the primary way to contact their doctor about medical issues.

HealthDay News -- For patients with chronic conditions, the ability to communicate with their doctor via e-mail may help improve their health, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

The study included 1041 patients in northern California diagnosed with conditions such as asthma, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, or hypertension. The patients had access to an online portal, which let them review their health records, make appointments, refill prescriptions, and send confidential e-mails to their doctor.

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A survey found that 56% of the patients had sent their doctor an e-mail within the past year, and 46% had used e-mail as the primary way to contact their doctor about medical issues. 

Thirty-two percent of those who exchanged e-mails with their doctor reported improvements in their health. Meanwhile, 67% said e-mailing their doctor had no effect on their overall health. 

For 42% of the patients, using e-mail to communicate with their doctor reduced the number of phone calls they made to the office, and 36% said they made fewer office visits. 

Among those who used e-mail to communicate with their doctor, 85% had co-pays of $60 or more for each office visit, or high deductibles, compared to 63% with lower cost-sharing.

"As more patients gain access to online portal tools associated with electronic health records, e-mails between patients and providers may shift the way that health care is delivered and also impact efficiency, quality, and health outcomes," lead author Mary Reed, DrPH, a staff scientist with Kaiser Permanente's research division in Oakland, California, said in a news release.

Reference

Patient-Initiated E-mails to Providers: Associations With Out-of-Pocket Visit Costs, and Impact on Care-Seeking and Health. American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC). http://www.ajmc.com/journals/issue/2015/2015-vol21-n12/Patient-Initiated-E-mails-to-Providers-Associations-With-Out-of-Pocket-Visit-Costs-and-Impact-on-Care-Seeking-and-Health. Accessed January 6, 2016.

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