Forget the doctor is in. The doctor is now online. Overall 39% of physicians currently email, secure message, or instant message their patients, according to Manhattan Research’s latest report “Physicians in 2012: The Outlook on Health Information Technology.” This type of secure messaging can take place through online providers, such as RelayHealth and Medfusion, which allows doctors and patients to communicate with each other about non-urgent medical issues via encrypted messages. Online patient communication is a growing trend as it has increased 14% since 2006 and could lead to more advances in health IT. “We find that physicians connecting with their patients online are more likely to be accessing the Internet during patient consultations and using various forms of health IT across the board,” says Erika S. Fishman, Director of Research at Manhattan Research and lead author of the report. “As we work to remove the barriers to physician adoption of online communication with patients and each party becomes more comfortable with exchanging health information online, we could see a parallel movement in use of electronic medical records and personal health records.”
Dermatologists rank first among specialist groups most likely to communicate with patients online, which includes answering clinical questions, discussing symptoms and/or treatment options, or determining whether an office visit is necessary. Medical oncologists are the next specialist group on the list followed by neurologists. Rounding out the top five are endocrinologists and infectious disease specialists.
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