No e-mail, please
Nothing personal. But your physician really doesn’t want you to e-mail him, according to a new study.
Patients said e-mails save them time, and health groups reported improved patient-satisfaction scores when their doctors used e-mail to communicate with patients, according to research by a Weill Cornell Medical College team published in the August issue of the journal Health Affairs.
But surveyed physicians are another matter, said Dr. Tara Bishop, one of the report’s authors and an assistant professor in the department of public health and medicine at Weill Cornell.
“The lack of compensation is one issue,” she told Crain’s New York Business.
An estimated 7% of doctors use e-mail to communicate with patients. Only one clinic in the 21 practices studied charged a fee for e-mails. Doctors interviewed for the study said electronic communication creates more work for them. “It takes a psychological toll on some people—the feeling of never being done,” she said.
A doctor may see only 10 patients a day but might e-mail 50 patients. And while an e-mail exchange can mean a patient can avoid an office visit, doctors said the practices just book more patients; physicians did not see a decrease in their workloads.
Insurers also balk at paying for physicians’ time spent e-mailing, the researchers found. “Until different payment models emerge, electronic communication is unlikely to be widely adopted by physician practices,” Bishop said.
Physicians say a full inbox of patient e-mails will just add more to their workload.