Doctor-patient e-mail communication
Communication by e-mail is now routine for many people, including nearly all business people. E-mail would seem to be a perfect way for harried doctors to save time by using it to communicate with their often equally busy patients, yet this article in USA Today discusses why this has not happened to any meaningful extent. One concern is patient confidentiality. Another is an undesirable change in the doctor-patient relationship. But perhaps the most relevant reason is mind-set; most doctors I know believe a face-to-face encounter with patients and families is the best way to communicate and avoid misunderstanding. I can see ways e-mail could augment personal discussion, but I would want to make sure it did not replace it. Would you use the ability to communicate with your or your child’s doctor by e-mail?
Here is an interesting update on the question. It appeared in the October, 2007, issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, the article can only be read by subscribers to the journal, but the upshot was that, of 328 families offered the opportunity to communicate with the doctor by e-mail, 306 accepted. A survey of these families showed high satisfaction with the system, and doctors spent less time on the telephone.