Recent surveys show patients want to be able to e-mail their doctors, but this type of communication is largely "still in the waiting room," even when the technology to make it happen exists.
This is according to Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing for Seattle based Azaleos, which specializes in unified communications. Gode says technology for patient communication is being used in "a minor way or not at all." He says the blame lies mostly with poor usability and implementation.
“There is a tendency to over-pilot technology adoption to the point where there is a requirement to see better results with the new system than with the old one,” says Gode.
But he says this shouldn’t be the case. “As soon as you see that a new system provide the same quality as face-to-face care, make the switch.”
John Bachman, MD, a consultant in family medicine at Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, says there is “no question” that e-visits can provide the same quality of care. He believes that for areas like chronic disease management, e-visits could even help providers to follow patients more closely online.
Bachman was part of a pilot study of online visits conducted in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Family Medicine from Nov. 2007 through Oct. 2009. The study was part of a larger effort to develop an online portal to be used throughout all departments.
This portal is in the final stages before roll out to 350 community-based physicians and then to specialists.
In the pilot it was found that women made up 71 percent of the patients using e-visits.
“The people that will drive it [e-visits] are the people managing healthcare and that’s women,” says Bachman.
Women begin managing their children’s care even before they are born, which is why Amy Romano thinks they are uniquely positioned to take part in the e-patient movement.
“Women’s access to information is changing. We need to reach out to women where they are,” said Romano, a nurse-midwife that does online advocacy work for Lamaze International, a nonprofit organization for pregnant women.
With 4.2 million women expected to give birth in the next year, she believes that access to online healthcare for this demographic could “ do a lot to improve healthcare for an important part of the population times two.”
“It’s a major resource for fixing what is wrong with healthcare,” she said.