The debate on the use of e-mail communication between doctors and patients has been receiving a lot of attention lately. A recent WSJ article takes a look at the discussion from both sides of the fence. Dr. Kvedar, founder and director of the Center for Connected Health in Boston, proposes that use of e-mail in the doctor’s office creates accessibility, openness, and improved communication with the patient. “I believe that patients understand the risks of email communication, and are willing to bear those risks in exchange for the more timely, useful and personal care that email can help bring about,” said Dr. Kvedar. He points out that privacy concerns are going exist with any communication system, and e-mail can be more effective than other methods at connecting with patients.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment. Dr. Bierstock, founder and president of health-care IT consulting group Champions in Healthcare, argues that while basic patient-doctor communication might increase, there is too much risk of missing something through e-mail. “Providing care includes an ability to interpret body language, facial expressions and other silent forms of communication that allow doctors to assess patient reactions to information about their health,” Dr. Bierstock explains. “Online communications eliminate the ability to interpret these important signals.”
The argument for increased efficiency might be tempting, agrees Dr. Sadaty in his response to the WSJ article. Dr. Sadaty is a medical practitioner who at one point utilized e-mail in his practice. He stopped because he still had reservations about its overall usefulness in providing patient care. “There is an aspect of the doctor-patient interaction that that cannot be duplicated through the email process,” Dr. Sadaty explains. He describes how missed diagnoses, ineffective use of communication, and confusion all factor against perceived benefits.
Is e-mail communication, a mainstay of practically every other service provider, unfit to use as a resource between patient and doctor? Or is the solution simply increased e-mail encryption, compliant with jurisdictional privacy laws, to put doctors at ease regarding PHI and other confidential information? The issue of patient privacy & liability might be causing doctors to be more reserved about e-mail use; after all, potential lawsuits are no laughing matter.
As a company aiming to improve communication in health care, Cliniconex is focused on understanding the unique needs of both the provider and the patient. In this era of connectivity, there are unlimited possibilities when it comes to improvements in health care through communication. In order to make progress on this front, one must analyze both the pros and the cons of each communication tool and see how they hold up against the industry’s standards.