Use of email in a family practice setting: opportunities and challenges in patient- and physician-initiated communication

Virji, Ayaz; Yarnall, Kimberly SH; Krause, Katrina M; Pollak, Kathryn I; Scannell, Margaret A; Gradison, Margaret; Østbye, Truls
January 2006
BMC Medicine;2006, Vol. 4, p18
Academic Journal
Background: Electronic mail (email) has the potential to improve communication between physicians and patients. Methods: We conducted two research studies in a family practice setting: 1) a brief, anonymous patient survey of a convenience sample to determine the number of clinic patients receptive to communicating with their physician via email, and 2) a randomized, controlled pilot study to assess the feasibility of providing health education via email to family practice patients. Results: Sixty-eight percent of patients used email, and the majority of those (80%) were interested in using email to communicate with the clinic. The majority also reported that their email address changed less frequently than their home address (65%, n = 173) or telephone number (68%, n = 181). Forty-two percent were willing to pay an out-of-pocket fee to have email access to their physicians. When evaluating email initiated by the clinic, 26% of otherwise eligible patients could not participate because they lacked email access; those people were more likely to be black and to be insured through Medicaid. Twenty-four subjects agreed to participate, but one-third failed to return the required consent form by mail. All participants who received the intervention emails said they would like to receive health education emails in the future. Conclusion: Our survey results show that patients are interested in email communication with the family practice clinic. Our feasibility study also illustrates important challenges in physician-initiated electronic communication. The 'digital divide' — decreased access to electronic technologies in lower income groups — is an ethical concern in the use of email for patient-physician communication.


Related Articles

  • A Better Measure of Patients’ Need for Interpreter Services. Jacobs, Elizabeth // JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine;Oct2008, Vol. 23 Issue 10, p1724 

    The author discusses the importance of knowing that one particular patient needs assistance of language access services. She cites the increasing number of American population who are limited English proficient. In this regard, she claims that individual physicians must also know how they could...

  • Preregistration house officers in general practice: review of evidence. Illing, Jan; Zwanenberg, Tim van; Cunningham, William F; Taylor, G; O'Halloran, Carla; Prescott, Richard // BMJ: British Medical Journal (International Edition);5/10/2003, Vol. 326 Issue 7397, p1019 

    Objectives: To examine the strengths and weaknesses of the national and local schemes for preregistration house officers to spend four months in general practice, to identify any added value from such placements, and to examine the impact on career choices. Design: Review of all studies that...

  • Results of a content analysis of electronic messages (email) sent between patients and their physicians. Sittig, Dean F. // BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making;2003, Vol. 3 Issue 1, p11 

    Background: Email is the most important mechanism introduced since the telephone for developing interpersonal relationships. This study was designed to provide insight into how patients are using email to request information or services from their healthcare providers. Methods: Following IRB...

  • Exploring Triangulation as the Foundation for Family System Thinking in the Balint Group Process. Johnson, Alan H. // Families, Systems & Health: The Journal of Collaborative Family ;Winter2000, Vol. 18 Issue 4, p469 

    Analyzes Balint case presentations and group process to illustrate how physicians get caught in the drama of triangulation and induced into family systems. Triangle involving doctor, patient and family in contemporary family medicine; Pursuing a more efficient, therapeutic doctor-patient...

  • POEMs: New Companions for Tips. Wright, Janis // American Family Physician;3/15/2003, Vol. 67 Issue 6, p1167 

    Introduces the section, Patient-Oriented Evidence that Matters, appearing on the March 15, 2003 issue of the 'American Family Physician.'


    It is now well established that the greatest source of dissatisfaction among patients concerns the communication of information about illness on the part of doctors.[2] This datum, however, appears to have been largely overlooked, both within the medical profession and by social scientists. Thus...

  • Walkabout. Greenhalgh, Trisha // BMJ: British Medical Journal (Overseas & Retired Doctors Edition;10/8/2011, Vol. 343 Issue 7826, p750 

    In this article, the author reflects on the walkabout attitude of Australians even in academic cases.

  • Dreaded Conversations:. Clever, Sarah L.; Tulsky, James A. // JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine;Nov2002, Vol. 17 Issue 11, p893 

    Suggests ways to solve the problem of inconvenience faced by physicians while communicating with patients. Situations arising the inconvenience; Recognition of patient's feelings by the physicians; Response to colleagues in inconvenient situations; Creation of systems for health care at...

  • Medical residents' first clearly remembered experiences of giving bad news. Orlander, Jay D.; Graeme Fincke, B.; Hermanns, David; Johnson, Gregory A.; Fincke, B Graeme // JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine;Nov2002, Vol. 17 Issue 11, p825 

    Context: Communication of bad news to patients or families is a difficult task that requires skill and sensitivity. Little is known about doctors' formative experiences in giving bad news, what guidance they receive, or what lessons they learn in the process.Objective:...


Read the Article


Sorry, but this item is not currently available from your library.

Try another library?
Sign out of this library

Other Topics