Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Doctor Patient e Mail: Stuck in First Gear

This article appeared recently describing the current state of doctor patient e mail. Although a few of us "committed souls" are modeling this as a great tool to improve access to health care, keep patients out of the office unless they really have to be there, and efficiently pass information back and forth, most US Health professionals are still unwilling to follow suit.

With few exceptions, most insurance companies don't reimburse for online office visits, so doctors are understandably reluctant to give their time away to e mail patients when they can bill for their time in the office. There are other barriers too, including lack of comfort or skill with internet/e mail, malpractice concerns, privacy concerns, and medical record documentation concerns.

These barriers need to be addressed and removed. Through widespread use of e mail, many office visits can be eliminated, greatly reducing the cost of care. Furthermore, one of the most frustrating aspects of the health care system is difficulty with physician access. With use of e mail, patients can get a timely response to many questions. They can also request prescription refills, appointments and review lab data. All of these are currently difficult to do, require playing phone tag and lead to tremendous frustration on the part of patients and physicians alike.

At eDocAmerica, we have seen, first hand, the enormous benefits of connecting patients with doctors via e mail. Connecting with your own doctor will be even more valuable. The eDoc staff developed a pilot project with a clinic in Portland, OR a few years ago and is now working on another one with the Family Medicine Clinic at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, AR. We are hopeful that, as more and more of these pilot projects spring up, and more and more insurance companies begin to reimburse for e-visits, that e mailing your doctor will become routine before too long.

Your comments and opinions are always welcome...


Joseph Sameh said...

Years after online communication has become pervasive in most industries, less than one-third of the country’s physicians have adopted electronic communication with patients. The problem, however, is not that doctors do not want to communicate via computer, it’s that they need a tool that meets their unique needs—namely a system that can enhance patient-doctor interactions while enabling physicians to maintain or improve their current workflow.

Charles Smith, MD said...

Dear Mr. Sameh,

Thanks for your comment. You are correct that doctors need a tool that meets their patient flow and communication needs. We have a tool that has been piloted in a couple of practices that we think will help in this regard. They also need to be fairly compensated for this time and effort, same as they would in the doctor's office.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

A helpful tool is Its a free on line portal for email communications between doctors and patients, that's also HIPAA compliant and easy to use.