Can email benefit both the doctor and patient?   Leave a comment

With email, patients would probably have more immediate access to the Consultant and/or Secretary and potentially get their problems and concerns dealt with more quickly.
Although these points are valid some areas of concern remain. Most patients would probably like being able to use email, being able to report any symptoms or concerns at any time of the day without having to bother with the telephone. For simple questions that are straightforward and to the point, email may well be beneficial to all concerned. Making appointments may also be more convenient.
However, email could possibly create inefficiency and confusion. Mostly everyone has either sent or received an email in which the content somehow did not fully convey the point intended. This can lead to even more confusion and inefficiency. Another real possibility could be that a diagnosis may be missed if a consultation is replaced by an email communication, or the patient might not fully understand the discussion.  Doctor/patient interaction cannot be duplicated through email.
Those who favour using email may state that only medical issues of a “minor” degree would be used for email status. A lot of patients however may not know what is a “minor” issue and what is more serious.
Maybe email communication can work in a safe and efficient manner only if certain restrictions and systems are in place. Here are a few suggestions:-
1.  Security – which is a must.
2. Receipt confirmation – possibly a receipt confirmation in the form of an autoreply, so that the patient will know right away if their message has arrived safely.
3. Limitation – messages could possibly be limited to so many characters –  ? 140 like Twitter. If over this amount then maybe a phone call or consultation is required. This also limits people from sending too long emails, after all sometime people can steer from the subject in question. Again the reason for the email or question asked may not be clear or easy to understand.
4. Email delivery – Maybe it should be stated that email is read only once per day and each email sent will have only one reply. This prevents the back and forth that can happen with email use which again may be time consuming and inefficient
So there are just a few things to consider regards email communication with patients. It is obviously a personal choice but I hope this helps in some way and maybe gives you ideas to consider regards email communciation with patients.  Let me know what you think?
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