E-mail Use Associated With Improved Care Effectiveness

Secure e-mails between physicians and diabetes or hypertension patients linked to improvements
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- The incorporation of secure patient-provider e-mails has been identified by the American Recovery and Reinvestment act as an objective for electronic health records, and it does appear to improve the effectiveness of care in patients with diabetes, hypertension, or both, according to research published in the July issue of Health Affairs.

Yi Yvonne Zhou, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., and colleagues studied data on the use of secure patient-physician e-mails between 35,423 patients with diabetes and/or hypertension and their doctors to determine the impact of that communication on the effectiveness of care.

The researchers counted 556,339 physician-patient e-mail threads containing 630,807 messages logged during their study, with 85 percent of the threads being initiated by patients. Within a two-month period, the researchers determined that use of secure patient-physician e-mails was linked to significantly improved effectiveness of care as measured by the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS). Use of secure e-mail was also associated with 2- to 6.5-percentage point improvements in HEDIS-measured performance on measures including glycemic control and blood pressure screening and control.

"The use of secure patient-physician e-mail in the context of a comprehensive electronic health record is associated with improved performance on HEDIS effectiveness-of-care measures. Further research is needed to confirm the potential of e-mail use as an important new modality for primary care," the authors write.

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