Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) are chronic diseases that span a lifetime. The complexity of IBD care necessitates close provider to patient interactions. Traditionally, patient care has been facilitated through traditional office visits and phone conversations. New technology has introduced innovative ways for patients to access healthcare providers. We hypothesize that a younger patient demographic is more likely to utilize newer technology to communicate with their providers. In this study, we seek to analyze the difference in modes of communication that IBD patients use to communicate with physicians dependent on patient age.Methods:
The study was conducted at an urban, academic medical center. We performed a retrospective review of the IBD patients who visited the clinic during a 6-month time period. Patient data were compiled in a database maintaining subject confidentiality. The total number of patient encounters, including number of office visits, ER visits, email communications, and phone communications were collected. Statistical analysis was conducted using Fisher's Exact Test with significance set at P < 0.05. The study was approved by the university Institutional Review Board.Results:
A total of 275 IBD patients presented to clinic during the 6-month time period. The mean age of the patient population was 42.9, with a range of 18 to 84. There were 831 total patient encounters, including office visits, ER visits, phone communications, and email communications. There were 429 total office visits and 402 non-office encounters. Patients <40 years old were more likely to have an non-office encounter (222 office visits versus 249 non-office encounters, 47%) than patients ≥40 years of age (207 office visits versus 153 non-office encounters, 57.5%, P = 0.003). There were 242 total email communications. Patients <40 years old were more likely to communicate by email than by other means (161 emails, 66.5%) than patients ≥40 years of age (81 emails, 33.5%, P = 0.0003). Patients ≥40 years old were more likely to communicate by phone than by email (61 calls versus 53 calls, P = 0.01). There was no significant difference in the number of ER visits versus the number of office visits in both groups (P = 0.88).Conclusions:
Access to healthcare providers is an important issue, particularly for those with chronic illnesses requiring complex management. While outpatient visits remain the most important setting for disease management, modern technology has played an increasingly important role in patient-physician communication. Our data indicates that younger IBD patients prefer email over other communication modalities, while older patients prefer the traditional office visit. These findings reflect the need to evaluate the role of the traditional office visit in a world that increasingly values faster methods of communication.