By Matt Kuhrt
Secure email provides an efficient and effective channel for communication between healthcare providers and their patients. A new survey from Kaiser Permanente shows it can also improve the overall health of individuals with chronic conditions.
Despite the rising interest in (and scramble to define) telemedicine, there has been relatively little data around the practical effect these more efficient communication methods might have on care outcomes. Kaiser Permanente sought information from 1,041 patients managing chronic conditions who had access to its communications technology, which allows users to send secure email messages to their healthcare providers.
Key findings included the following:
- More than 99 percent of respondents reported unchanged or improved overall health after emailing with their doctors about their condition.
- More than half the patients surveyed had sent an email to their care provider during the previous year.
- The 46 percent of patients who reported using email as a first method of contact about a health concern were significantly more likely to have higher out-of-pocket costs for office visits.
- In terms of email displacing other forms of contact, 42 percent reported swapping email for phone contact, and 36 percent claimed their use of email reduced the number of in-person visits.
It remains to be seen whether evidence of these sorts of positive outcomes will help doctors to make headway on seeking insurance reimbursement for care given in this way. Slow adoption of telehealth technologies by doctors and patients have been additional barriers to widespread implementation to date, as FierceHealthIT has reported.