Physician Practice

Studies show more patients favor email exchanges with physicians

Physician Practice Insider, March 8, 2016

A new study found that more patients are regularly communicating with their physicians through emails and that most physicians respond to emails within 24-hours of receiving them.

The study conducted by Oakland-based health system Kaiser Permanente and published in the December 2015 issue of the American Journal of Managed Care polled more than 1,000 Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, and asthma. Some patients corresponded with physicians through Kaiser's 'My Health Manager' portal while others used regular email channels. Kaiser said that in 2014 alone, Kaiser Permanente members sent more than 20 million messages to providers through the My Health Manager portal.

The study found that nearly half of the patients surveyed (46%) used email as their first method of contact with physicians.

"We found that a large proportion of patients used email as their first method of contacting healthcare providers across a variety of health-related concerns," said Mary E. Reed, staff scientist at Kaiser Permanente's division of research and a lead author of the study. "As more patients gain access to online portal tools associated with electronic health records, emails between patients and providers may shift the way healthcare is delivered and may also impact efficiency, quality, and health outcomes." 

The study also found that patients were more likely to use email if they had higher copays. It found that 85% of patients with copays of $60 or more per office visit preferred email as their first method of contact. This compares to 63% of patients with copays of less than $60 per office visit.

This article was originally published in Physician Practice Perspectives. Subscribers can read the full article in the April 2016 issue.

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