How e-mailing patients and adhering to best practices mix

Recommended reading from Anne Taylor-Vaisey: The article below was just published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Free html full text is available to all. You have to register to access PDF versions (no charge for registration).

From the JMIR home page:

JMIR - the leading OPEN ACCESS peer-reviewed transdisciplinary journal on health and health care in the Internet age - and your e-Health research portal

Robert G Brooks, Nir Menachemi. Physicians‘ use of email with patients: factors influencing electronic communication and adherence to best practices. J Med Internet Res 2006 (Mar 24); 8(1):e2


Background: With the public‘s increased use of the Internet, the use of email as a means of communication between patients and physicians will likely increase. Yet, despite evidence of increased interest by patients, email use by physicians for clinical care has been slow.

Objective: To examine the factors associated with physician-patient email, and report on the physicians‘ adherence to recognized guidelines for email communication.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey (March-May, 2005) of all primary care physicians (n = 10253), and a 25% stratified, random sample of all ambulatory clinical specialists (n = 3954) in the state of Florida. Physicians were surveyed on email use with patients, adherence to recognized guidelines, and demographics.

Results: The 4203 physicians completed the questionnaire (a 28.2% participation rate). Of these, 689 (16.6%) had personally used email to communicate with patients. Only 120 (2.9%) used email with patients frequently. In univariate analysis, email use correlated with physician age (decreased use: age > 61; P = .014), race (decreased use: Asian background; P 50 physicians, P

Conclusions: This large survey of physicians, practicing in ambulatory settings, shows only modest advances in the adoption of email communication, and little adherence to recognized guidelines for email correspondence. Further efforts are required to educate both patients and physicians on the advantages and limitations of email communication, and to remove fiscal and legal barriers to its adoption.

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