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The Doctor is "In" -- Or at Least Online Posted: March 2nd, 2010

By Robert Foreman

Robert Foreman has taught English at the college level for five years, and worked previously as a corporate analyst and as a legal assistant. He is currently a PhD candidate in English, with a nonfiction writing emphasis.

Although doctors primarily provide care to patients face to face, an increasing number of physicians are available to their patients through electronic communication. According to a report by Manhattan Research, 39% of doctors use technologies such as e-mail and instant messaging services to interact with patients -- an increase from 14% in 2006.

Specialists May Be More Likely to Communicate through E-mail

Not all medical practitioners are accessible through electronic communication. Doctors in certain specialties are more likely than others to be available by e-mail. Of all medical specialists, dermatologists are most likely to engage in e-mail exchanges with patients.

After dermatologists, the doctors who most commonly e-mail with patients are:

  • Oncologists
  • Neurologists
  • Endocrinologists
  • Specialists in infectious diseases

Benefits of Electronic Communication for Patients

E-mail communication can be useful to doctors who have patients that cannot easily gain physical access to an office or hospital. According to the Mayo Clinic, other benefits of engaging with doctors through e-mail include the ability to ask difficult questions and discuss private matters without the pressure and discomfort that can accompany face-to-face interaction.

Doctors can also benefit from electronic communication because of the ability to provide information to patients in a more convenient format. Additionally, physicians may be able to manage contact with patients more easily through e-mail and other communication technology.

The Mayo Clinic warns against contacting doctors via e-mail with urgent health problems, or using e-mail to communicate unsolicited, detailed, and intimate information.

How to Communicate with Your Doctor by E-mail

Despite the casualness that often accompanies e-mail communication, proper doctor-patient etiquette and decorum are advised.
If you are interested in consulting with your doctor electronically, confirm that your doctor is open to electronic communication. Before beginning online contact, your doctor may ask you to sign a consent form that outlines privacy information and the parameters for e-mail communication.

Robert Foreman