Does E-Mail Enhance Doctor Patient Communication

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

Keeping in touch with patients via email can be a great tool for the DC as well as a great benefit to the patient.

Today’s Reuters Health features an article regarding e-mail and doctor-patient communications.

According to the article, participants in a health panel discussion found the use of the internet and email has the potential to “enhance doctor-patient communication.”

The article discusses the concern some medical doctors have regarding the public having access to so much medical information. While some physicians are reportedly “uncomfortable”, others suggest embracing the internet. One individual stated, “An educated patient is a good patient.”

In the article, the chief medical officer of a healthcare website suggested that doctors endorse high quality web sites to their patients, helping patients “sort the wheat from the chaff.” It was also mentioned that according to consumer research, “patients really do want to know what sites their doctors think are best.”

Recommended in the article was the use of “e-mail as an effective way for physicians to deliver information to their patients.” For those that think this may result in email inbox floods, the article suggests that this is not the case.

Probably the most important thing stressed in the article was that, “physicians should educate patients about issues related to e-mail use, such as the potential lack of confidentiality and the inappropriateness of the system for emergency requests.”

This is paramount to maintaining a good relationship with your patients and practice members. (See below for some suggestions about this issue.)

A possible wake-up call for those that are still not online, the article stated that, “About one-third of patients who use the Internet indicate that they would change their physician if he or she ‘would not interact with them’ on-line.”

And again, we see the use of the term “backbone” this time referring to an “e-mail backbone” which is used “to send forms-based messaging back and forth” between doctors and their patients.

This is your normal complete cycle modernized with internet terminology. Ask your patients this: do you think the “backbone” is concerned with what the email says? Or, is the primary function of the backbone to allow the free flow of information back and forth? Read the above again. A “backbone” is a system designed to allow back and forth messaging. Do you want your messages distorted or would you like them to arrive just as they were sent? Have you ever gotten an email that you could not read? What use was it to you? Where did that information go?

Much of this is not new information to many of you, as many are already using email to enhance communications with your patients and practice members. Among the chiropractic emails we receive daily, DC-patient communication is a popular topic. While some would be happy to have you purchase their “email newsletter services”, many of you (both DCs and patients) have reported these generalized mailings to be less effective than the more personal approach sent by you.

Some important things to consider when communicating with patients via email:

1. Learn to use your email software appropriately. If your not sure, read the help files and ask your kids. (Seriously)

2. Respect their privacy. Be sure to use software that does not include everyone’s address in the mailing. Most software offers options for things such as “bcc” or blind carbon copy. If your using a service, be sure your patients are aware that the emails are not coming from you and that someone else is maintaining the “list.”

3. Keep your patient list separate from your friends/family list and especially your DC list. (We as a profession need some serious education in email etiquette. I include Planet Chiropractic in that statement as well. We really need to work together on this one doctors.)

4. Watch for our upcoming article on creating and maintaining a successful email relationship with your patients. @ 10:21 am | Article ID: 956856112