3 ways physician-patient email helps practices

Fewer than a third of physicians reported they exchanged secure email messages with patients in 2012. That may be because email exchanges seems to appeal more to patients that to time-strapped docs. But doctors who do use email to communicate with patients describe some impressive benefits to incorporating electronic communication into their practices.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, email exchanges:

1. help patients use the Web appropriately

When doctors are more accessible, patients are less likely to self-diagnose medical conditions online. Some doctors noted that they use email and text messages to steer their patients toward trustworthy online health information.

2. boost online ratings

Online ratings and reviews of physicians are playing a growing role in patients' doctor selection. Mark Seigel, a Maryland OB/GYN told the newspaper that his willingness to answer routine health questions via email has helped improve the reputation of his practice and contributed to strong online ratings from patients.

3. reduce costs

Although a common argument against emailing patients is that it represents uncompensated physician time, New York endocrinologist Andrew Martorella told the WSJ that if he didn't spend a few hours a day to answer 40 to 50 patient emails, he'd likely have to hire another employee to handle office phone calls. "I think it is definitely made a big change in terms of reducing costs, especially for solo practitioners," he said.

To learn more:
- read the Wall Street Journal article

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