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Tech Is Keeping More Americans in Touch With Doctors

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WEDNESDAY, July 8, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Since the coronavirus pandemic began, nearly 50% of Americans have used technology to communicate with their doctors, a new study finds.

But less than one-quarter have talked with their doctors about using health information technology, the researchers found.

"The results of our statewide survey indicate patients are using health information technology," said researcher Joy Lee, a scientist at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis.

"However, they aren't talking to their provider about it," she added. "One of the few widely agreed upon recommendations for electronic communication in health care is for providers to be talking to their patients about it ahead of time. This does not appear to be happening regularly, and may be impacting the use of this technology."

The coronavirus pandemic has changed how patients are communicating with their doctors, Lee said. "But having a shared agenda about how to communicate, what is appropriate to send as a message, and being able to discuss it openly is still important to foster the electronic patient-provider relationship," she said in an institute news release.

Results of a survey sent to Indiana residents found that:

  • 31% use electronic health record messaging
  • 24% use email
  • 18% use text messages

These findings are similar to findings across the United States, the researchers noted.

But only 21% of participants said they had a conversation with their doctor about how to correspond digitally.

Senior study author Dr. David Haggstrom said, "This lack of conversation may lead to patients not taking advantage of these online communication platforms which have strong potential for patient engagement." Haggstrom is interim director of the Regenstrief Institute's William M. Tierney Center for Health Services Research.

"Individuals may be more likely to use messaging if they know what subjects are appropriate and how their provider might respond. We need to look at providing more support for both patients and providers to facilitate these conversations," he said in the news release.

"The need for remote communication has been dramatically highlighted in the rapidly changing health care environment associated with COVID-19," Haggstrom said.

The report was published online recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

More information

For more on "telehealth," visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: Regenstrief Institute, news release, June 30, 2020

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