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Int J Med Inform. 2001 Apr;61(1):71-80.

A survey of patient-provider e-mail communication: what do patients think?

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  • 1WebMD Inc, Portland, OR 97034, USA.


Communication between patients and providers forms the backbone of the patient-provider relationship. Often such communication is strained due to time and space limitations on the part of both patients and providers. Many healthcare organizations are developing secure e-mail communication facilities to allow patients to exchange e-mail messages with their providers. Providers are worried that opening such lines of communication will inundate them with vast quantities of e-mail from their patients. Patients are worried that their messages will be intercepted and read by unauthorized people. In an attempt to determine how a group of internet-active, e-mail-ready patients currently use, or potentially view, the ability to exchange e-mail messages with their health care providers, we distributed a survey via e-mail to over 9500 patients. After determining each patient's e-mail activity level (based on the number of messages sent each day), we asked questions such as: "Have you ever sent e-mail to your provider?" "What issues or concerns have prevented you from sending e-mail messages to your provider?" "If your provider were to tell you that someone in his/her office may screen, read or perhaps reply to your message before he/she sees it, to what extent would you be concerned about this?" and "How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the use of e-mail to communicate with your provider?" Results from the survey indicate that nearly 85% of the patients surveyed send at least one e-mail message per day, but that very few (i.e. 6%) of the patients have actually sent an e-mail message to their provider. Interestingly, over half of the patients indicated that they would like to send their providers e-mail, but that they do not know their provider's e-mail address.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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