Patient-Doctor Email Exchanges = Better Health Outcomes?

by Academy of Clinical Excellence on July 16, 2010

Earlier this week, I came across an article about a recent California study that found that doctors who communicate with their patients via email may actually achieve better health outcomes with their patients.
Patients with diabetes and hypertension, who communicated with their doctors through email, achieved their goals more efficiently. Perhaps this was achieved by not having to exclusively wait for appointments to have their treatment adjusted.

This study reaffirms what I have noticed in my own practice. Email communication with patients can be very effective – with benefits to both the patient and physician. I ask many of my hypertension patients to monitor their blood pressure and report back to me weekly via email. At that point we can make adjustments, schedule an appointment if need be, or I can offer congratulations for their compliance and efforts to realize the improvements. While diabetes and hypertension are examples of how objective data can be delivered by email back to the physicians, some of my patients send pictures of rashes and how these are responding to prescribed therapies.

Email also allows us to quickly share lab results with patients - without wasting paper or stamps, or having the patient wait anxiously.Issues related to the protection of patient healthcare information must be considered and discussed with patients. In general, I prefer to respond to emails sent by patients rather than initiate communications to be sure the email address I am sending my message to is the correct one. As such, I ask patients to email me 3 days after labs were drawn to request the results.
It goes without saying that improved accessibility to one’s healthcare provider helps the patient feel more secure and, as the article states, empowered in their healthcare. The benefit, as a physician, of email communication is that it is immediate and I can rest assured knowing that my patients can reach me.

You can find the study here: Improved Quality At Kaiser Permanente Through E-Mail Between Physicians And Patients

 

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rangojigi November 12, 2010 at 2:06 am

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