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Patients see benefits of e-mail and Web communications -- if free


Patients are willing to use e-mail and physicians' websites to communicate with their doctors in an effort to save time, as long as they do not have to pay for the ability.

Patients are willing to use e-mail and physicians’ websites to communicate with their doctors in an effort to save time, as long as they do not have to pay for the ability, according to results of a survey recently released by Lightspeed Research.

More than half of the 1,000 respondents said they would be willing to use e-mail for a variety of interactions with their physicians, including receiving routine test results (59 percent), requesting repeat prescriptions (53 percent), confirming appointments (53 percent), and updating their doctors on existing conditioning (51 percent). Using a doctor's website for these activities also was popular with survey participants, but the majority of them said they would be unwilling to perform the same tasks via text messages or live online chats.

When it comes to e-mailing their primary care physicians specifically about illnesses or conditions, participants said the key advantages were that it would save time because they would not have to visit the doctor in person (59 percent) and would not have to wait for an appointment (56 percent). Another advantage, cited by 51 percent of respondents, was avoiding other sick people in the waiting room. Women who responded to the survey were more likely than men to see each of these points as an advantage, and those older than 55 years were the least likely to see any advantages in e-mailing their physicians about illnesses or conditions.

Forty-six percent of respondents said they would be unwilling to pay for e-mail consultations, and an additional 31 percent said they would be willing to pay for such consultations only if they were covered by insurance.

In spite of their willingness to use e-mail or the Internet to communicate with their physicians, most respondents said their family doctors do not offer those options.

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