Email Communication May Improve Health in Patients With Chronic Conditions

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Many patients use email for their first communication with their physicians.
Many patients use email for their first communication with their physicians.

(HealthDay News) — For patients with chronic conditions, the ability to communicate with their doctor via email 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 emails to their doctor.

A survey found that 56% of the patients had sent their doctor an email within the past year, and 46% had used email as the primary way to contact their doctor about medical issues. Thirty-two percent of those who exchanged emails with their doctor reported improvements in their health. Meanwhile, 67% said emailing their doctor had no effect on their overall health. 

For 42% of the patients, using email 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 email to communicate with their doctor, 85% had co-pays of $60 or more for each office visit, or high deductibles, compared with 63% with lower cost-sharing.

"We found that a large proportion of patients used email as their first method of contacting health care providers across a variety of health-related concerns," lead author Mary Reed, DrPH, said in a news release from Kaiser Permanente. Reed is a staff scientist with Kaiser Permanente's research division in Oakland, California. 

"As more patients gain access to online portal tools associated with electronic health records, emails between patients and providers may shift the way that health care is delivered and also impact efficiency, quality, and health outcomes," she added.

Reference

  1. Reed M, Graetz I, Gordon N, Fung V. Patient-Initiated E-mails to Providers: Associations With Out-of-Pocket Visit Costs, and Impact on Care-Seeking and Health. Am J Manag Care. 2015;21(12):e632-e639.
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