Clinicians more likely to use cellphone than email to communicate with patients: 3 things to know

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The majority of providers don't communicate with patients via email, despite being receptive to replying by email to patients who reach out first, according to a study published in the European Journal for Person Centered Healthcare.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 149 primary care providers at a Mid-Atlantic community practice about their communication with patients outside of the clinic. The researchers considered cellphone, email and text message-based communication.

Here are three insights into clinician-patient communication.

1. Clinicians were more likely to use cellphones to communicate with patients, rather than email. Fewer than half of clinicians indicated they use email to communicate with patients.

2. Seventy percent of clinicians said they would use email if a patient emailed them first. Providers who made their email addresses available to patients were more likely to communicate electronically.

3. The researchers also investigated providers' concerns about patient communication. They found clinicians tended to worry about patients missing urgent messages or misunderstanding information.

"It's time that doctor and patient have a face-to-face conversation during an office visit explaining how each feels about electronic communication," said Joy L. Lee, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Indianapolis-based Indiana University School of Medicine.

"Patients can discuss their electronic access and their comfort level with getting information electronically," she continued. "Physicians can share their own concerns with patients."

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