E-mail Communication in the OB/GYN Office: Analysis of Patient E-mails to Their OB/GYN

Andrew L. Atkinson, Jonathan D. Baum, Meghan Rattigan, Debra Gussman

Abstract


Background: How patients use e-mail with their obstetrician-gynecologists (ob/gyns) is unknown. E-mail was originally created as a tool for health care professionals yet physicians remain reluctant to adopt e-mail as a form of communication with patients. Many cite concerns of patient misuse, risk management issues, and uncompensated time commitment. The primary objective of this study was to examine the details of e-mail generated by patients to their ob/gyns. A secondary objective was to examine e-mails that corroborate physician concern about e-mail.

Methods: A retrospective observational study was performed. E-mails from patients sent to two ob/gyns were examined.

Results: Three hundred patient initiated e-mails were generated by 127 patients. Seventy-eight percent were sent during office hours and 87% of e-mails were sent on weekdays. Thirty-seven percent involved symptoms, 14% test results, 13% administrative, 12% contraception, 11% prescriptions, 8% other and 5% social. Three percent of e-mails met the definition of misuse. There were 594 follow-up e-mails exchanged from the initial 300 e-mails. Each physician received up to 6 e-mails daily.

Conclusions: Patients use e-mail as an alternative to calling. More than 50% of e-mails relate to symptoms and test results. This study substantiated concerns about e-mail misuse by patients. New policies must be created to ensure that e-mail with patients is safe, effective and attractive for physicians as a form of communication with patients.




J Clin Gynecol Obstet. 2014;3(1):8-13
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14740/jcgo232e


Keywords


E-mail; Electronic mail; Physician communication; OB/GYN

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