Why don't we email and text with our doctors more?

It would certainly help ease our concerns, and as it turns out, physicians find it often saves them time and money.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

We have lots of questions… some of them are even legitimate concerns. So why are most doctors hesitant to email and text with us more?

Patients love the access, and physicians find it often saves them time and money… but as the rest of the world has raced ahead with instant communication, medicine still lags far behind. Wall Street Journal reports.

Their concerns range from privacy and security issues to liability, inconvenience and the risk of miscommunicating important medical information. Some also say the time spent emailing with patients is time unpaid.

  • A study with 3,000 doctors found that just under one-third of doctors reported emailing with patients in 2012, up from 27 percent five years earlier.
  • Those texting rose from 12 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2012.
  • Just 5.5 percent of 30,000 Americans said they communicated with a healthcare provider by email in 2011, up slightly from 4.6 percent in 2009.

Doctors who do email say it’s a convenient way to communicate without the hassle of playing phone tag, and it keeps patients away from Google searches with misleading results. Also, spending a few hours answering emails is a lot cheaper than having to hire another staff member to field patient phone calls. And, it could help improve online ratings.

It’s all fine, as long as doctors are in compliance with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Communicating protected health information electronically requires a secure system, such as a online portal or a system that encrypts messages (not personal Gmail accounts).

Additionally, as part of the government's stimulus act, physicians are encouraged through financial incentives to use electronic medical records. Groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics' Section on Telehealth Care are working on developing initial guidelines on how to deal with electronic communication.

[From WSJ]

Image: CDC/Debora Cartagena

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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