Most medical professionals do not use instant communication to communicate with patients. However, some doctors have begun using email and texting to communicate with their patients. In 2012, just under a third of doctors used email to communicate with their patients, which was up 27 percent from five years earlier. The use of texting rose from to 18 percent in 2012 from 12 percent in 2010.
The reason some doctors avoid using email include concerns over privacy and security issues, liability, inconvenience, and risk of miscommunication of important medical information. Additionally, some doctors are concerned about the costs of using email with patients since doctors often do not charge with the service.
There are some doctors and patients like the ease of the use of email. Some doctors even provide patients with business cards that have their email on it while other only provide their email when asked. Doctors say email and texting make it more convenient to communicate with patients. For example, doctors and patients play less phone tag. Additionally, the easier it is for patients to communicate with their doctors the less likely to rely on potentially inaccurate information found on the internet. Patients love having easy and quick access to their doctors. This gives patients more peace of mind.
There are doctors that ensure their compliance with federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which is meant to protect the privacy of the patient’s health information. It is required by law that electronic communications that are related to the health of an individual be protected and secure. Some groups are working towards the development of guidelines on how doctors should handle electronic communication. These guidelines would address the issues of patient privacy and medical safety.
Despite the convenience for both doctors and patients of communicating through email and texting, doctors can sometimes end up with unwanted emails. They can be bombarded by messages by demanding patients. Doctors could also end up on a mass email list they do not want to be on. It can also be frustrating for doctors when patients email on the weekend for cosmetic prescriptions or they make unusual requests. Nevertheless many doctors find this form of communication very convenient and will continue to use it.
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