Patients' email exchange with doctors improves health

Less than one percent said that emailing made their health worse.

New York: A third of patients with chronic conditions who exchanged secure emails with their doctors said that the communications improved their overall health, according to a study conducted by one of US' largest healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente.

"We found that a large proportion of patients used email as their first method of contacting healthcare providers across a variety of health-related concerns," said the study's lead author Mary E. Reed, staff scientist with the Kaiser Permanente research division.

Researchers surveyed 1,041 Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California who had chronic conditions such as asthma, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes or hypertension.

Virtually all patients with chronic conditions said that exchanging email with their health care provider either improved (32 percent) or did not change their overall health (67 percent).

Less than one percent said that emailing made their health worse.

More than half of respondents (56 percent) had sent their provider an email within the previous year, and 46 percent used email as the first method of contact for one or more medical concerns.

Among patients who had emailed their health care provider, 42 percent reported that it reduced phone contacts and 36 percent said it reduced in-person visits.

Among email users, 85 percent of patients with higher cost sharing reported choosing email as their first method of contact, compared with 63 percent of patients with lower cost sharing.

The study was published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

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