Study: Patients appreciate electronic communication

Patients and Electronic Medical RecordsAnyone with a career in health care, from nurses to those working in medical assisting, knows that technology is playing an increasingly important role in the field. While electronic medical and health records have long been discussed as a means of digitizing and improving health care, a new study has found that patients also appreciate electronic communication from their physicians.1

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College studied six medical practices that routinely use electronic communication for clinical purpose in order to come to their conclusions. While they found that both patients and health care organizations were huge proponents of the use of electronic communications, the researchers concluded that significant barriers remain to widespread adoption of the practice.

“Leaders of medical groups that use electronic communication find it to be efficient and effective – they say it improves patient satisfaction and saves time for patients,” Dr. Tara Bishop, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a statement. “But many physicians say that while it may help patients, it is a challenge for them.”2

One of the specific challenges that researchers noted was the lack of compensation for the extra work. Electronic communications such as emailing test results to patients can increase the workload of physicians and their assistants, giving them the feeling that work day is never truly over.

“One leader said that the work never ends,” Bishop explained. “It takes a psychological toll on some people – the feeling of never being done. Another said that in one day, he sometimes sees 10 patients but communicates with another 50, commenting that he works all the time.”

The researchers hypothesize that although electronic communication is efficient and well-received by patients, it is unlikely that it will be widely adopted unless the issue of compensation and time management is better addressed.

1 Bishop et al., Dr. Tara F., HealthAffairs, ‘Electronic Communication Improves Access, But barriers To Its Widespread Adoption Remain,’ Aug. 2013 – http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/8/1361.abstract
2 Press release, Weill Cornell Medical College, ‘The Doctor Will Email You Now,’ Auig 5. 2013 – http://weill.cornell.edu/news/releases/wcmc/wcmc_2013/08_05_13.shtml