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Patients Want Online Access to Physicians, Health Records

But many are unaware of existing options, findings suggest

TUESDAY, June 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Internet-savvy Americans would like to add their doctors to their group of Facebook friends or e-mail contacts, according to a study published online June 24 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In a new study, researchers analyzed 2,252 responses from a national survey of retail pharmacy customers. Many of those surveyed were frequent Facebook users who wanted to be able to contact their doctor about health-related matters through this social networking site or via e-mail.

Thirty-seven percent of participants said they’d e-mailed their doctor in the past six months, and 18 percent had reached out through Facebook. Those most likely to reach out to their doctor electronically were non-whites, people younger than 45, and those with higher incomes. Caregivers and patients with chronic illnesses were also more likely to use e-mail or Facebook to communicate with their doctor. People with less education and lower incomes were less likely to reach out to their doctor online. Accessing health information electronically is also preferred, the survey results revealed. Up to 57 percent of respondents reported wanting to use their doctors’ websites for this purpose. About 46 percent also wanted to track their health progress or access health information through e-mail.

Electronic health records have made these options available to patients at many hospitals, but few patients actually use them. Only 7 percent of those polled ever access their own heath information on their doctors’ website and only 7 percent order drugs by e-mail, the survey showed. This suggests patients may not know about the online health services available to them, the study authors suggested. “The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide,” study author Joy Lee, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a journal news release.

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