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Int J Med Inform. 2003 Apr;70(1):1-9.

Opportunities to enhance patient and physician e-mail contact.

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Division of General Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The purpose of our study was to evaluate how e-mail is currently used between physicians and patients in an integrated delivery system, and to identify developments that might promote increased use of this form of communication. A paper-based survey questionnaire was administered to 94 primary care physicians. We evaluated the role e-mail currently plays in a physician's typical work day, physician views on the impact of e-mail on phone use and the barriers to increasing the use of e-mail with patients. 76% of physicians surveyed responded. All respondents currently use e-mail. Close to 75% of physicians use e-mail with their patients, but the vast majority do so with only 1-5% of those patients. 50% of physicians believe that up to 25% of their patients would send e-mail to them if given the option, with an additional 37% believing that between 25% and 50% of patients would value this option. The main reported barriers to physician-patient e-mail related to workload, security and payment. Our survey findings indicate that with adequate pre-screening, triage, and reimbursement mechanisms physicians would be open to substantially increasing e-mail communication with patients.

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