Secure messaging improves quality of care for diabetics

Patients with Type II diabetes are happier with the quality of their care when they can use secure electronic messaging to communicate with their physicians, a study by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville has found.

Secure messaging with a patient portal "facilitates access to care and delivery of care, enhances patient satisfaction, and is associated with certain clinical outcomes" including improved control of blood-sugar levels, researchers concluded in the study, recently published online in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Patients also regularly used secure messaging to send their doctors clinical information, the study found, and thus collaborated in decisions about their own care.

The patients all used portals to their electronic health record, some more frequently than others. While the No. 1 use by participants who frequently used the portals was to view medical records, the No. 3 use was secure messaging to physicians, reported by 63 percent of those patients.

Not all patients were happy with secure messaging, though, often because their providers had not fully explained how messaging worked, or how the practice would handle messages received. In some cases, patients were disappointed by a lack of timely responses to their messages; one even decided on his own to stop taking medication when he received no response after reporting side effects.

The researchers noted that if physicians communicate with patients properly about the benefits, secure messaging can help providers achieve EHR Meaningful Use benchmarks such as patient engagement, maintaining up-to-date medication and problem lists and avoiding unnecessary visits.

"Given our finding that patients distrust SM technology after negative experiences, it is critical that providers have protected time to devote to patients' messages," they said.

Another recent study also published in JAMIA found that online disease-management programs, including online messaging, helped Type II diabetes patients better manage their disease. Patients reported improved hemoglobin levels after six months, although the results were not sustained at the one-year point. The program engaged patients through an online monitoring system, including home glucometer readings uploaded wirelessly and online messaging with a multidisciplinary health team.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract


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