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May 21, 2010

Why don't more doctors use email?

It's hard to think of any occupation, any person for that matter, that doesn't rely on email these days. But medicine remains one of those areas where email is still a new phenomenon. Take parents and pediatricians. Parents want the convenience of emailing their pediatricians, but doctors tend to shy away from doing so because of privacy and safety concerns, says this piece that ran in yesterday's Health & Style section.

The story takes a look at a recent Johns Hopkins study that found even though parents want to communicate with their child's doctor through email, some physicians fear that parents will use e-mail in emergency situations, that it will lead to misunderstandings, or even that a message sent to a nonsecure computer constitutes a violation of privacy, the article explains.

Then there are worries about when a doctor's day starts and ends. If a doctor exchanges emails with a patient, does it imply they're on call around the clock? Will an insurance carrier reimburse a doc for sending an email? What about people who don't have email access? Are they forced to suffer with inferior care?

I wonder, too, do docs even have the time to email patients? Most of us find ourselves hurried through doctors appointments, as it is. And getting a doctor on the phone is no easy feat.

Still, I wonder if this becomes a place where medicine evolves. If enough parents, especially first-timers, who are known for calling pediatricians offices early and often, ask to email their doctors, will practices begin to do so?

The story quotes one doctor who thinks email has helped avoid phone tag with parents, some of whom have even sent him photos of their kids' rashes. 

What do you think? Does your doctor use email? If not, would you prefer if the doc did?


Posted by Kelly Brewington at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: General Health
        

Comments

One of the reasons I love our doctor is because he will email you a response. My daughter's new doctor promotes it. I think it should be added to our list of what to look for in a doctor (with boundaries on both sides of the fence, or the disclaimer that is attached by the hospital).

We went through a difficult winter and I cherish our surgeon"s kindhearted emails encouraging me to contact him if need be. It brought me much needed comfort.

I concur that patients WANT email access on two levels, personally and professionally. My internists offers it and I am thrilled with the convenience. Now that I have had it, I wouldn't choose another doctor without it. Professionally, I am own a medical marketing firm, and this is a trend that will be slow but unstoppable. Many doctors will dig in against this idea, but patients will demand it, especially upscale patients.

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About Picture of Health
Meredith CohnMeredith Cohn has been a reporter since 1991, covering everything from politics and airlines to the environment and medicine. A runner since junior high and a particular eater for almost as long, she tries to keep up on health and fitness trends. Her aim is to bring you the latest news and information from the local and national medical and wellness communities.

Andrea K. WalkerAndrea K. Walker knows it’s weird to some people, but she has a fascination with fitness, diseases, medicine and other health-related topics. She subscribes to a variety of health and fitness magazines and becomes easily engrossed in the latest research in health and science. An exercise fanatic, she’s probably tried just about every fitness activity there is. Her favorites are running, yoga and kickboxing. So it is probably fitting that she has been assigned to cover the business of healthcare and to become a regular contributor to this blog. Andrea has been at The Sun for nearly 10 years, covering manufacturing, retail , airlines and small and minority business. She looks forward to telling readers about the latest health news.
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