Why Doctors Don't Email Patients

from the fear dept

It turns out that 90% of people who have email would like to be able to email their doctors. However, according to the NY Times very few doctors are willing to communicate that way. Even ones who are email savvy prefer not to give out their email to patients. The biggest fear is that they will be overwhelmed by email messages from patients. However, doctors who do use email have found that not to be true. They say a very small percentage of patients email them on a regular basis – and they actually find it helpful. Some even find that it saves them time from having to make phone calls. Overall, it seems like patient-doctor emails could actually make our health care work better, but it seems unlikely to be widely embrace for a while.

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Comments on “Why Doctors Don't Email Patients”

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1 Comment
Paul Hsieh, MD (user link) says:

Why I don't e-mail my patients

I’m a physician and I almost never e-mail my patients unless it’s for a very nuts-and-bolts question like “Will you be in town on the week of July 4th?” which are amenable to very short unambiguous answers.
I adopt this policy because when patients have more complex medical questions, I find it critically important to be able to listen to their tone of voice to make sure that I’m understanding their question correctly and that they’re understanding my answer correctly. Given the well known fact that e-mails in the business world can be so easily misinterpreted by people who are working from slightly different sets of assumptions, it’s not difficult to imagine that this problem would be multiplied many-fold in situations where anxious patients are dealing with emotionally charged questions about their health.
There are a few patients whom I know already that can communicate well by e-mail and won’t read into a message something I don’t intend to say, so I do make an exception in their case.

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