Apr 17, 2002
Laurie Barclay, MD
NEW YORK (MedscapeWire)
According to a Harris Interactive Survey reported on April 10, almost all Internet users would like to communicate with their doctors online, more than half would choose doctors based on their online availability, and more than one-third would even be willing to pay for this service.
"Currently very few people communicate with their physicians online and most physicians have serious reservations about giving patients their email addresses because…of concerns about reimbursement, privacy of patient information and potential malpractice liability," the authors write. "This will surely change."
In this nationwide, cross-sectional online survey of 2014 adults aged 18 years and older, most of those surveyed wanted to communicate with their physicians online (90%), ask questions when no visit was necessary (77%), make appointments (71%), refill prescriptions (71%), and receive the results of medical tests (70%).
More than one-third (37%) said they would pay out-of-pocket for online communication with their physicians. Those who were more affluent were more likely to be willing to pay for this privilege. Of those who said they were willing to pay, the average amount they would pay was slightly more than $10 per month or almost $7 per answered email, even though other survey questions suggested that this would not save them money.
More than half of survey responders said that online communication capabilities would influence their choice of health plans (55%) and of doctors (56%). Online availability would influence choice of doctors and health plans "a great deal" in 12% to 14% of respondents. Because several organizations are already addressing liability and privacy issues, the main barriers to online communication between doctors and patients will be reimbursement and financial incentives for doctors.
"When so many people want something…the system (or the marketplace) will eventually provide it," the authors write. "It seems safe to predict that within a fairly short space of time many doctors will be communicating with their patients on the Internet."
Harris Interactive Healthcare News. 2002;2(8)
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD
Laurie Barclay, MD, is a staff writer with WebMD.
© 2002 Medscape Portals, Inc