NEW YORK - Although 40 percent of general medicine clinic patients regularly use e-mail, only 14 percent of them have used it to communicate with their doctors, a recent survey by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System has found.
But patients say they want e-mail access to their doctors: 70 percent of patients (both e-mail users and non-users) surveyed said they would like to communicate with their health care provider via e-mail.
At the same time, 83 percent of the patients' physicians said they thought e-mail was a good way to answer patients' non-urgent medical questions, even though only 27 percent said they were currently using e-mail to communicate with patients. These results suggest that there is great opportunity to facilitate electronic communication between patients and their doctors.
The survey of 320 patients and 75 resident physicians was conducted at the outset of a larger study at the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Hospital, which will now evaluate a specially designed e-mail system that facilitates electronic communication between patients and physicians.
The system, known as EMAIL (Electronic Messaging, Advice, and Information Link), allows patients to communicate with their doctors through an electronic triage system about such things as appointment times, referrals, prescription renewals, or general health questions. The preliminary survey was conducted to determine baseline e-mail use patterns and attitudes toward the use of e-mail.
The EMAIL study, directed by David Stern, MD, and Steven Katz, MD, MPH from the
U-M Department of Internal Medicine and the Ann Arbor VA Hospital, was
introduced in the U-M General Medicine Clinic in August 1999. All resident
physicians with on-site clinics are participating and have been randomized into
a "study group" and a "control group." Patients of the physicians in the study
group receive detailed information about the new system and are
Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System