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Patients like access to their electronic medical record and E-mailing their doctor, but doctors still prefer the telephone

Patients like having access to their electronic health record (EHR) and communicating with their doctor by E-mail for certain things, but doctors still prefer the telephone to E-mail, according to a recent study that was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (contract 290-00-0003).

Andrea Hassol, M.S.P.H., of Abt Associates, Inc., and her colleagues conducted an online survey of 4,282 members of the Geisinger Health System, who are registered users of the computer application, MyChart. MyChart allows patients to communicate electronically with their providers and view selected portions of their EHRs. The researchers also conducted focus groups with 25 patients who were using the system and one-on-one interviews with 10 primary care clinicians about patient access to the EHR and use of E-mail communication between patients and doctors.

The majority of users found the system easy to use (mean scores of 78 to 85 on a 1-100 scale) and reported that their medical record information was complete, accurate, and understandable (mean scores from 65 to 85). Only a minority of users were concerned about the confidentiality of their information or about seeing abnormal test results as an explanatory electronic message from their providers. Patients with less than a high school education had more difficulty understanding medical information and test results than high school graduates, but even among this group, the scores averaged above 70.

Patients preferred E-mail communication for some interactions—for example, requesting prescription renewals and obtaining general medical information—while they preferred in-person communication for others—for example, getting treatment instructions. Telephone or written communication was never their preferred communication channel. In contrast, physicians preferred communicating by telephone rather than E-mail.

See "Patient experiences and attitudes about access to a patient electronic health care record and linked Web messaging," by Andrea Hassol, M.S.P.H., James M. Walker, M.D., David Kidder, Ph.D., and others in the November 2004 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 11(6), pp. 505-513.

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