Monday, February 05, 2007
Most experts say doctors, rather than patients, have dragged their feet, for several reasons. In short, doctors worry that:
•Patient confidentiality will be compromised in messages sent over the Internet.
•Doctors will be deluged by patient e-mail, which would add hours of uncompensated labor to their work weeks.
•Patients will send e-mail about urgent matters — for, example, heart attack or stroke symptoms — that doctors won't see in time.
I confess, those used to be my reasons for not embracing patient e-mail, but now that I'm using e-mail, here are the real-life problems:
*Patients change their email addresses and don't tell you.
*Patients don't check their email
*Patients won't let the email through their spam blockers
*Patients share email addresses - this is especially true among spouses, so it really isn't private and you can't be sure it is actually the patient who is sending/receiving the information. I have had wives sign their husbands up for the service without their knowledge. (Never had the roles reversed for some reason.)
*Patients forget their passwords to the secure message site. Not sure why this is a problem. The site will send the password to you if you request it, but it is. Perhaps it's because they've changed email addresses and forgotten.
*And yes, there are patients who send messages that are better addressed over the phone because they are emergencies, or urgent cases. I've gotten emails that say "Please answer this within the next five minutes," as if I'm just sitting their waiting for something to pop into my inbox.
Having said all of that, however, I still am very satisfied with electronic communication. It gives me a better way to explain results. I can edit what I'm saying to make it clearer than it might be if I were speaking over the phone, and I can attach web links to sites with more information. The patient can read and re-read the message until they understand it, or failing that, send another message asking for clarification. It is by no means perfect, but it's overall useful. And it doesn't tie up the phone lines.
posted by Sydney on 2/05/2007 08:01:00 PM 1 comments
I agree. I like email for certain things, like patient requests for record releases or to have us fax test results to referring doctors etc. I tend to not reply with test results, due to privacy issues. In general, I like it. It is one more tool in your tool box.