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JAMA. 1998 Oct 21;280(15):1321-4.

The origin, content, and workload of e-mail consultations.

Author information

  • 1Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville 22908, USA. Witz@Virginia.edu

Abstract

CONTEXT:

Despite the common use of e-mail, little beyond anecdote or impressions has been published on patient-clinician e-mail consultation.

OBJECTIVE:

To report our experiences with free-of-charge e-mail consultations.

DESIGN:

Retrospective review of all e-mail consultation requests received between November 1, 1995, and June 31, 1998.

SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS:

Consecutive e-mail consultation requests sent to the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Children's Medical Center of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Number of consultation requests per month, time required to respond, who initiated the request and their geographic origin, and the kind of information requested in the consultation.

RESULTS:

During the 33-month period studied, we received 1239 requests, an average (SD) of 37.6 (15.9) each month. A total of 1001 consultation requests (81%) were initiated by parents, relatives, or guardians, 126 (10%) by physicians, and 112 (9%) by other health care professionals. Consultation requests were received from 39 states and 37 other countries. In 855 requests (69%), there was a specific question about the cause of a particular child's symptoms, diagnostic tests, and/or therapeutic interventions. In 112 (9%), the requester sought a second opinion about diagnosis or treatment for a particular child, and 272 consultations (22%) requested general information concerning a disorder, treatment, or medication without reference to a particular child. A total of 1078 requests (87%) were answered within 48 hours of the initial request. On average, reading and responding to each e-mail took slightly less than 4 minutes.

CONCLUSION:

E-mail provides a means for parents, guardians, and health care professionals to obtain patient and disease-specific information from selected medical consultants in a timely manner.

PMID:
9794310
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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