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Doctors Twice As Likely To E-Mail Another Provider Than A Patient

Only 6.7 percent of office-based physicians routinely e-mailed patients about clinical information in 2008, according to an issue brief from the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Only 34.5 percent of office-based, ambulatory care physicians reported that information technology for communicating with patients about clinical issues via e-mail was available in their practice in 2008. Of that third, 19.5 percent routinely e-mailed patients, or 6.7 percent overall, while the rest were split between occasional use or non-use. The study sample was restricted to 4,258 office-based physicians and the response rate was 62 percent.

In contrast, twice as many physicians spent at least some time each work day e-mailing physicians and other clinicians.

Among 16 clinical tasks that can be supported by health information technology, such as viewing lab or diagnostic test results, reviewing medication lists or e-prescribing, e-mail communication with patients ranked third to last with respect to availability and last in terms of routine use.

Internal medicine doctors more commonly used e-mail than subspecialists, but practice size was a large influence. Solo practitioners were far less likely (13.6 percent) than larger, group practice settings to use e-mail to convey clinical information to patients. Hospitals (18.7 percent) and academic settings (25.9 percent) were more likely. But even among the highest users, physicians in group/staff-model HMOs, only 50.6 percent reported routinely e-mailing patients. And, physicians 55 an older were less likely to use e-mail, not only because of age but because they were likely to be in a smaller practice setting.

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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