It seems like everyone is using the Internet to e-mail their friends, family, employees and co-workers, so why aren’t doctor’s using e-mail to communicate with their patients?
Well, doctors are saying they are worried e-mail will increase their workload and they don’t get reimbursed for it by insurance companies. Two major health insurers, Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc., compensate doctors who use a secure Internet site to communicate with patients. That includes sending an encrypted e-mail. Other doctors fear hackers will invade patients’ privacy, even though e-mail is password protected.
“The health care industry seems to be lagging behind other industries,” Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project said in a CNN article, No LOL: Doctors dont’ answer e-mails.
I agree with Fox. The health care industry does seem to be behind in using the latest technologies or even old technologies for that matter. E-mail has been around for a long time, so I think it’s about time for physicians to use this technology!
A survey conducted by Manhattan Research found that only 31 percent of doctors e-mailed their patients in 2007. This is a very small percentage and PR professionals would frown upon this.
“Public relations” means forming relationships with people and communicating with those people. Doctors should learn from the PR pros and start writing e-mails to their patients. Relationships and communication build trust, and trust is the most important characteristic patients want their doctors to possess.
The CNN article stated that many patients would like the convenience of e-mail for prescription refills, lab results or scheduling an appointment.
I would definitely like to e-mail my doctor for prescription refills. It is too time consuming and annoying to call the doctor’s office and continue to receive a voicemail or no response. Sometimes my doctor tells me to make an appointment with him just to get a refill. This is a little ridiculous, don’t you think?
A primary care doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Tom Delbanco, e-mails his patients and believes it is just a matter of time before e-mail becomes a routine part of patient care.
Before e-mail can become routine, doctors need to be trained to handle confidential patient messages, including how to file e-mails in patients’ health records.
Unfortunately, the health care field changes slowly, but hopefully the number of doctors who go digital will increase in the near future.