Study Sees Improved Outcomes for Patients Who E-Mail Doctors

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Individuals who e-mailed their physicians experienced better outcomes on management of two chronic diseases than people who did not e-mail, according to a new study of Kaiser Permanente patients, the Sacramento Bee reports (Peyton Dahlberg, Sacramento Bee, 7/7).

The study, published in the July edition of Health Affairs, examined 35,423 Kaiser patients in Southern California who have diabetes, high blood pressure or both. Researchers reviewed about 556,000 e-mail threads containing more than 630,000 e-mail messages (Kaiser Permanente release, 7/7).

The study was conducted between 2005 and 2008 (Sacramento Bee, 7/7).

Study Results

The study found that patients initiated 85% of the e-mail exchanges (Kaiser Permanente release, 7/7).

Eighty-eight percent of patients with diabetes who e-mailed their physicians had control of their blood sugar levels at the end of 2008, compared with 83% of diabetics who did not e-mail.

The study also found that 73% of patients who e-mailed received screenings for retinopathy -- an eye problem associated with diabetes -- compared with 70% of patients who did not e-mail (Sacramento Bee, 7/7).

Among patients who e-mailed their physicians, the study authors also recorded improvements in cholesterol control and screening, blood pressure levels and screening for kidney disease. The more frequently e-mails were exchanged, the greater the health improvements, researchers noted (Gardner, HealthDay, 7/7).

Takeaways

E-mailing may help strengthen the relationship between patients and physicians, the authors suggested. They also noted that patients who are likely to e-mail their physicians might be more inclined to better manage their own care (Sacramento Bee, 7/7).

Robert Hoyt
Please note that the authors point out that this was a non-randomized non-prospective study so you can not prove cause and effect. In addition they were unable to control for educational level which could easily explain the differences between groups. We need better studies before we draw any conclusions Bob Hoyt MD

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