Some Patients Want Digital Interactions with Doctors, Most Not Getting Them

June 25, 2015
A large chunk of healthcare consumers wish to use emails, websites, mobile apps, and even Facebook to interact with their provider, a new survey revealed.

A large chunk of healthcare consumers wish to use emails, websites, mobile apps, and even Facebook to interact with their provider, a new survey revealed.

The survey, conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, looked at whether retail pharmacy consumers would be open to using various methods of digital communication to interact with their doctor. Most respondents were open to using websites (57 percent), email (46 percent), and mobile apps (41 percent) to access their health information. Fifteen percent were interested in Facebook to do that.

For prescription refills, it was 46 percent for email, 51 percent for websites, 41 percent for mobile apps, and 16 percent for Facebook. Tracking health progress was the area where consumers found Facebook being potentially the most useful, although it trailed the other three methods of digital communication there as well.

The Hopkins researchers surveyed 2,252 respondents at retail pharmacies. The survey revealed that the gap between what patients want to use and what’s available to use is significant. For instance, only seven percent of respondents actually use their physicians' websites to access their own health information, while another seven percent fill prescriptions via email. On the positive side, the researchers found that 37 percent of patients used email to communicate with their physicians and 18 percent had actually used Facebook.

"The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide," stated lead author, Joy Lee, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health "Improving and accelerating the adoption of secure web-messaging systems is a possible solution that addresses both institutional concerns and patient demand."

The researchers say that the healthcare digitally inclined tend to be people younger than 45 years old and those with a higher income. The complete findings of the survey were published in Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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