Dear Dr….

Here’s an interesting abstract from E-Health Insider Primary Care (Issue No. 7).

“Four out of five US patients who are online would ideally like to ask their GPs’ advice over e-mail if it would save them a visit to the surgery, according to an online survey undertaken by Harris Interactive. Around 69% of those surveyed would like to use e-mail to set appointments and receive test results; however, 44% also argued that they shouldn’t have to pay to communicate with their doctor over e-mail. According to the survey, which was sponsored by The Wall Street Journal Online, 62% strongly agreed that electronic medical records would prevent patient errors, but 67% also harboured privacy concerns about their medical information.”

What is interesting is the fact that people did not want to pay to communicate with the physician when using email. I know that this may be a contentious issue because responding to emails in any meaningful way does take time, especially in the absence of a physical exam. It’s interesting to see how the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care here in Ontario is doing some pilot studies to see what remuneration is appropriate for email communications.

This type of article reminds me of some findings on a study assessing the quality of feedback in email by Eysenbach and Diepgen (1998), titled “Responses to unsolicited patient e-mail requests for medical advice on the World Wide Web”. There are precautions that must be taken, especially in light of the legal issues surrounding privacy legislation.