Many Physicians Hesitant to Consult with Patients Via E-Mail, Survey Says
Most physicians are still waiting for insurance reimbursement for or convincing proof of the clinical and financial value of communicating with patients via e-mail, according to a survey released Tuesday by Deloitte and Touche and Fulcrum Analytics. Of 1,200 physicians polled, 23% said they use e-mail to communicate with patients -- an increase of only 4% over last year. Of participants who said they do not exchange e-mail with patients, 79% cited a preference for face-to-face communication as the primary reason. Nonetheless, 54% of those physicians also said insurance reimbursement would be the leading reason for them to exchange e-mail with patients in the future. Forty-three percent cited the potential to reallocate staff as a reason to use e-mail consultations, while 42% cited potential time savings. Thirty-seven percent cited the ability to see more patients per week and the ability to reduce expenses. Nine percent of respondents did not expect reimbursement for communicating with their patients by e-mail. Physicians recommended an average fee of $57 for a 15-minute online consultation.
While adoption of e-mail communication remains low, 55% of participants said they do recommend "credible" Web sites to their patients for health information. This figure represents an increase over last year, but fewer physicians are directing patients to the best-known Web sites, according to the report. It remains unclear to which sites physicians are recommending. "It may be that physicians are finding other Web sites rather than always pointing [patients] to the most well-known Web sites," Scott Taylor, a Deloitte & Touche partner, said. The survey, titled "Taking the Pulse v 2.0: Physicians and Emerging Information Technologies," was conducted during October and November 2001 (Deloitte & Touche release, 1/29). The survey is available at http://www.dc.com/obx/pages.php?Name=dr_physicians_emerging&seshid=6bc492458daf32d7461521c28d1189e5.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.