Sunday, January 6, 2013


A Forbes article from earlier this month tries to dispel the myth that doctors will only increase their (uncompensated) work burden if they are willing to communicate with patients via email. Personally, I communicate with my physicians via email--I actually go so far as to nearly use that as a criteria when choosing a physician. But I think this form of communication is important for a far greater reason.

The power differential in the doctor-patient relationship is a key factor in how a particular patient's care will proceed, as I've written about before. Email has the benefit of being a low-pressure method of communication, one that doesn't require confident, direct interaction. Many individuals, no matter their background, find it difficult to speak openly with their physician, to ask questions, to be sure they are sharing all of the information and history they should. But email provides an opportunity for the patient to carefully consider what they want to say, and to do outside the pressure of the exam room. Patients may share information--some which might be critical to providing the best care--that might otherwise be left out or simply overlooked.

As technology becomes more and more integrated into all aspects of life, including medicine, health care will have to embrace these changes. People are embracing them. We can't let inertia prevent improvements in care.

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