Online communication between health care providers and patients can help boost patient education and satisfaction, according to a small provisional study published this week in the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, FierceHealthIT reports.
For the study, researchers in Denmark created a Web-based tool, called the Online Patient Book, that allowed asynchronous online communication between health care providers and their patients.
The patients -- men with prostate cancer who had been treated with surgery in a short-stay hospital setting -- were able to use the online tool to send messages to their health care providers and were promised a response within 24 hours.
Researchers evaluated the use of the tool between June 2010 and September 2010.
The study found that 33 out of 34 patients who used the online tool reported having a positive experience, while one patient provided a natural evaluation of the tool.
Participants reported that the tool provided them with freedom and a "feeling of security" because they were able to get in touch with their health care providers when necessary, but they were not limited by a particular time or location to meet.
The researchers said, "The patient users could both take as long as they needed to ask the 'right ' question, but also do so without feeling the stress in relation to taking someone's time" (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 9/5).