Healthcare News & Insights

What really happens when patients and docs email each other?

More doctors are using email to communicate with patients — and now we have an idea what the typical exchange looks like.

Researchers at the University of Kansas examined over 500 unique email messages to patients from three general practitioners. The messages were collected over the span of three months, and all identifying info was removed.

They found some interesting trends and data points. Most of the messages (70%) were responses to emails initiated by patients, the rest were routine messages like test results, appointment reminders and the like. Of the patient-initiated messages, about 18% included complaints of one sort or another. Most (61%) were complaints about the progress of their illness, 17% were about their treatment, 13% were about a member of the medical staff, and 9% were complaints about the doctor.

On average, doctors took 23 hours to respond to patients, while patients wrote back within five hours. But a longer time-to-respond also correlated with more lengthier responses. The researchers said patients overall didn’t seem to mind the lag in response time.

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