Communicating by email?


Question from IJG: How do doctors feel about e-mail communications with patients?
Answers - Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Many patients aren't aware that most hospitals and professional medical organizations advise against e-mail as a means of doctor-patient communication. Even if confidentiality is not a concern of yours, doctors are taught to view confidentiality as one of the most important values in medical care. In addition, e-mail does not effectively communicate feelings, tone of voice, or severity or urgency of symptoms.

I have also received e-mails from patients who want to change their appointments—and I don't even have privileges on our computer schedule! On the other hand, e-mails can be a quick way to let a doctor know that you've canceled an appointment because you're going out of town. Such an e-mail could help the doctor know what's going on with you if you miss an appointment.

It's important to remember that a doctor who receives an e-mail doesn't have your chart with him/her, so bypassing the secretary and her nurse may actually compromise the quality of your care, as the doctor may not have all the necessary information at his/her fingertips. I would advise you to ask your doctor how s/he feels about e-mail and in what case e-mail would be the best method of communication.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. Also, doctors are required to document all conversations in order to make your chart complete. Doctors may not always have patient charts attached to their computers or place of e-mail activity. So the e-mail exchange may not be readily documented in the chart.

On Wednesday, February 19, 2003, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called The Doctor-Patient Relationship. Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about how to find the right doctor for you, and how to create and maintain a good, open relationship with your doctor so you can be sure to get all the care and information you need.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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