As health care costs rise in the United States and elsewhere, adopting health information technology is being advocated to reduce costs and improve efficiency.Patient:
Physician e-mail communication is a frequently proposed tool in this strategy.Objectives:
We examined the interest of rheumatology outpatients in using E-mail for communication with their rheumatologist. We sought to identify their privacy and cost concerns on this issue, and examine the patients' demographics, internet usage, and preferences.Methods:
An anonymous survey was given to 150 consecutive patients. Patients responded to questions on demographics, rheumatic diseases, comorbidities, computer/internet access, E-mail use, privacy concerns, payment issues, and preferences regarding communication with their rheumatologist. Statistical analyses on the relationships between demographics and patient preferences on communications with their rheumatologist were conducted.Results:
There were 145 respondents; the mean age was 52.3 years, mean education level was 13.6 years. The sample tended to be women (74%), retired/disabled (46%) or employed full time (35%). Most had internet access (74.5%). Differences were found based on gender, age, education, and income levels. Younger adults were more likely to desire E-mail communication with their rheumatologists, especially if paid by insurance. More men than women had concerns about privacy; persons with higher income levels were more willing to self-pay for E-mail.Conclusion:
As a significant number of patients with rheumatic diseases express interest in E-mail communication with their providers, rheumatologists need to be cognizant of patients' preferences. To deliver patient-centered care, rheumatology practices might consider incorporating E-mail communication into their practices.