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Emailing the Doctor



Despite the widespread use of the Internet, only 5% of Americans use email as a way of communicating with their physician.


A publication by the American National Centre for Health Statistics claims that, in the last year, more than half of the American population consulted the Internet when seeking information on medical issues. Nevertheless, the same survey found that only 5% of those polled used email as a way of contacting their practitioner. 


The survey which was conducted between January and June of 2009 by the American National Center for Health Staticstic consisted of 7,192 participants of ages ranging from 18 to 64 years.


The researchers at The American National Center for Health Statistics, which is affiliated with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 51% of the survey's participants reported that they had used the Web within the previous 12 months while in search for medical information. They also found that there is a higher probability of women using the Internet as a search resource than men (59% and 43%, respectively), and that in order to gain more information, women participated in chats more often than men did (4% and 2.5%). This same survey also showed that during the previous year, about 6% of the participants renewed prescriptions online, and close to 3% scheduled physician appointments via electronic means.


According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that doctors are less likely to use the Internet or email in order to contact their patients. This is due to privacy issues as well as a lack of clarity regarding billing.


Even so, there are doctors like paediatrician, Dr. Asher Barak, who are strong advocates of virtual communication. “In my experience, email is an excellent way to communicate with patients. It enables them to ask questions and  express their fears. Providing an open channel of communication between patients and their physician helps alleviate patient anxiety. It also helps the physician identify those patients who requires repeated visits to the clinic. Of course, a good relationship between the two parties as well as a willingness to communicate in this fashion is necessary for virtual communication to work well.”

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