Many Patients Want To Connect With Docs Via Facebook, E-mail

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Patients say they want to be able to contact a clinician about health-related issues through social media or e-mail.
Patients say they want to be able to contact a clinician about health-related issues through social media or e-mail.

HealthDay News — Internet-savvy Americans would like to add their doctors to their group of Facebook friends or e-mail contacts, according to a study published online June 24 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In a new study, researchers analyzed 2,252 responses from a national survey of retail pharmacy customers. Many of those surveyed were frequent Facebook users who wanted to be able to contact their doctor about health-related matters through this social networking site or via e-mail.

Thirty-seven percent of participants said they'd e-mailed their doctor in the past six months, and 18% had reached out through Facebook. Those most likely to reach out to their doctor electronically were non-whites, people younger than 45, and those with higher incomes. Caregivers and patients with chronic illnesses were also more likely to use e-mail or Facebook to communicate with their doctor.

People with less education and lower incomes were less likely to reach out to their doctor online. Accessing health information electronically is also preferred, the survey results revealed. Up to 57% of respondents reported wanting to use their doctors' websites for this purpose. About 46% also wanted to track their health progress or access health information through e-mail.

Electronic health records have made these options available to patients at many hospitals, but few patients actually use them. Only 7% of those polled ever access their own heath information on their doctors' website and only 7% order drugs by e-mail, the survey showed. This suggests patients may not know about the online health services available to them, the study authors suggested.

"The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide," study author Joy Lee, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a journal news release.

Reference

Lee JL, et al. Patient Use of Email, Facebook, and Physician Websites to Communicate with Physicians: A National Online Survey of Retail Pharmacy Users . J Gen Intern Med. 2015; doi: 10.1007/s11606-015-3374-7.

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