- potential increase in workload;
- lack of reimbursement;
- security and confidentiality issues; and
- medico-legal concerns.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
There Are Pros And Cons To Having Email Access Between Doctor And Patient. Education Is Vital.
This article appeared a little while ago.
Authored by Cate Swannell
ONLINE portals using secure pathways may be the best available solution to the dilemma of doctor-patient email communications, which sees practices lagging behind the “willingness of their patients” to connect via email.
A systematic review published in Family Practice showed that far more physicians want to use email communication with their patients than actually do use it. In Europe, for example, it was shown that only 7.4% of the European population communicated with a physician using email or the web.
“In the UK, 52% of general practitioners responded as willing to use such a communication with their patients, and 37% had already received one or more emails from their patients,” the author of the review, Assistant Professor Jumana Antoun from the American University of Beirut, wrote.
“Factors that may explain this discrepancy between physicians’ willingness and actual practice of email communication are: 1) physicians differ in their experience and attitude towards information technology, 2) some may not be convinced that patients appreciate, need and can communicate by email with their doctors, 3) others are still waiting for robust evidence on service performance and efficiency in addition to patient satisfaction and outcome that support such practice and 4) many are reluctant to do so because of perceived barriers.”
Mr Des Clarke, a practice manager for three practices, collectively known as Your Doctors, in Sydney’s inner west, said that his biggest concern with patient emails was “the triage issue”.
“The worst nightmare is someone sending an email to their doctor about their chest pain, and the email not being seen straight away,” Mr Clarke told MJA InSight.
“That is my top concern, always, with our online appointment booking system, which has a section where patients can write a note about their problem. If they’re not understanding that they can’t get an immediate response from their doctor, then it’s a worry if what they’re experiencing is chest pains, for example.
“We’ve been using the online appointment booking system for about 18 months, and we’ve had only two issues of that kind.”
The Family Practice review listed four “barriers and concerns” physicians perceived blocking their use of email communication with patients:
“Current literature has not yet shown that email communication with patients increases physicians’ workload,” Assistant Professor Antoun wrote. “For example, early adopters have reported an average of 2–5 messages per day only (here, here and here).”
I think the key message from this is that any e-mail communication needs to be properly and safely managed with patients fully understanding (and being educated to understand) what sort of issues can be addressed via e-mail and what needs to be addressed via traditional means.
Both clinicians and patients need to be sensible about e-mail use.
Clearly you should not try to ask about your chest pain by e-mail!
Posted by Dr David More MB PhD FACHI at Wednesday, September 21, 2016