Patient Use of Email, Facebook, and Physician Websites to Communicate with Physicians

A national cross-sectional online survey was conducted to explore patient behavior and interest in using the Internet to contact physicians. The sample consisted of 4,510 CVS customers with an inclusion criteria of at least one chronic condition. Out of the 4,510 subjects sampled, 2,252 responded. This survey measured demographic and health information, patient use of email and Facebook to contact physicians, and patient interest in and use of Web-based tools for health. Out of the 2,252 respondents, 37% reported contacting their physician(s) via email within the last six months, whereas 18% contacted via Facebook. The study also found a negative association between older age and contact with physician via email (OR 0.57 [95 % CI 0.41–0.78]) or Facebook (OR 0.28 [0.17–0.45]). Some patients were found to be interested in using Web-based tools to fill prescriptions, track health, and access health information (37-57%), but very few were currently doing so (4-8%)

Although this study only measured patient contact with physicians, the findings still may apply to pharmacists. The article noted one important detail from its findings; the gap between patient interest for online communication and the opportunities that physicians currently provide. With more development and adoption of creating a secure Web messaging system, a solution could be found that addresses patient demand for quicker and more convenient contact. The research also notes a very important statistic; patient interest in using web-based tools to fill prescriptions and track health/health information and the amount of patients already doing so. This shows that there are currently no well developed and implemented way for patients to perform all of these tasks. Although community pharmacies are rolling out individual programs for these needs, there is no one global tool that is available to patients that often visit multiple community pharmacies.

Lee J., Choudhry N., Wu A., et al. Patient Use of Email, Facebook, and Physician Websites to Communicate with Physicians: A National Online Survey of Retail Pharmacy Users. J Gen Intern Med. 2016; 31: 45-51

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