I’m Your Doctor, What’s Your Email Address?

By  //  December 22, 2013

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EDITOR’S NOTEAs almost every facet of our society has embraced and rapidly moved ahead with instant communication, healthcare providers, and physicians in particular, still lag far behind.

According to annual studies of more than 3,000 doctors conducted by Manhattan Research, a health-care market-research firm, just under one-third of doctors reported emailing with patients in 2012, a minimal increase from 27% five years earlier.

Only 5.5% of 30,000-plus Americans included in a National Health Interview Survey said they used email to communicate with a health-care provider in 2011, up slightly from 4.6% in 2009.

Email as an effective reliable venue for physician-patient communication has raised concerns ranging from privacy and security issues to liability, inconvenience and the risk of miscommunication of important medical information. Also, many physicians have been reluctant to use email because the time spent emailing with patients is time unpaid.

However, with the development of professional guidelines for use and recognition by payers of the cost efficiencies venues like email afford, many physicians are now embracing the capabilities and the benefits, both to them and their patients, of electronic communication.

In the Med Page Today article below, Dr. Fred N. Pelzman, Associate Medical Director and director of the educational curriculum for medical house officers of the Weill Cornell Internal Medicine Associates in New York addresses the challenges inherent in the adoption of  physician-patient electronic communication and ultimately recommends to both physicians and patients that they take full advantage of email as an integral communication tool in the physician-patient relationship.

Your physician should be asking for your email address, and it’s in your best interest to provide it.


MEDPAGETODAY — Getting the most out of any and all connections with our patients has proved somewhat problematic. Figuring out how to bring ourselves, and our patients, into the 21st-century world of electronics telecommunications and medical informatics has been a daunting challenge.

Something as simple as “May we please have your email address for communications?” has stirred up a beehive of controversy we never thought would exist in building the patient-centered medical home.

There is clearly a longstanding, and possibly well deserved mistrust when it comes to having your healthcare information fly over the electronic airwaves.

With the development of professional guidelines for use and recognition by payers of the cost efficiencies venues like email afford, many physicians are now embracing the capabilities and the benefits, both to them and their patients, of electronic communication.

You would be amazed by the array of reactions we get when we ask patients if we can add their email to our electronic health record, or enroll them in our electronic patient portal.

There’s clearly a sense that they fear that someone with nefarious motivation is going to get hold of their cholesterol levels, and do misdeeds with it.

People seem perfectly comfortable putting their major credit card numbers online, banking online, and putting their home address and when they’re away on vacation on their Facebook page, but I think people fear that someone is going to see some of their health information and somehow discriminate against them, get them fired, raise their life insurance rates, or otherwise do them harm.

I think we shouldn’t be so naive as to think that if someone really wanted to see some of our protected health information they wouldn’t be able to. This data streams across multiple sources of data, from the lab to the servers in the hospital, the insurance companies, and claims data carry our diagnoses. If the NSA can get our phone numbers and Target cannot keep our credit cards safe, then certainly getting your latest creatinine level should not be that big a challenge.

These additional sources of contact with patients improve communication, unburden our phones, and allow the front desk staff to more efficiently take care of patients who are right there in front of them. It allows them to do today’s work today. There are fewer phone calls saying the doctor never called me with my blood test results, I have a question for the doctor, I want an appointment with the doctor.

CLICK HERE to read the complete story on MedPageToday.com.