Survey: Patients prefer doctors who offer email communication

By: Aditi Pai | Jun 3, 2014        

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Catalyst Healthcare Research dataNinety-three percent of adults would prefer to go to a doctor that offers email communication, according to a recent survey of 433 Americans aged 21 and over from Catalyst Healthcare Research. Of this 93 percent, 25 percent said they would still prefer a doctor that uses email communication even if there was a $25 fee per episode.

The margin of error for the survey was 4.7 percent.

Catalyst split the survey participants into four categories: Generation Y, aged 21 to 33; Generation X, aged 34 to 48; Baby Boomers, aged 49 to 67; and the Silent Generation aged 68 and over.

The survey found that 84 percent of Baby Boomers use the internet to get information about a medical condition or drug, a higher number than any other age bracket, while Generation Y had the highest percentage of users that looked for info about doctors online, 62 percent, and checked how much medical procedures cost online, 41 percent. 

“There really is a quest for information and it’s coming through because as healthcare consumers take on more of the cost of their own care, they feel more empowered to share in the decision making,” Dan Prince, founder and President of CHR, said in a recent webinar. “They are trying to make better decisions about their own care and its cost.”

Catalyst also asked consumers if they prefer to pay bills, receive lab results, set up future doctor appointments, and get after hours advice from the doctor online or through another method of communication.

The researchers found that 44 percent of consumers wanted to pay bills online. A majority of the two younger generations, 55 percent in each group, wanted to pay bills online. When asked about lab results, Generation X was had the highest percentage of consumers that wanted to view results online, 46 percent. Overall, this group was equally interested in seeing lab results online or via phone call — both were around 35 percent.

Price added that in spite of all the baggage that comes with calling the doctor’s office, including being put on hold, 67 percent of users preferred making doctors appointments on the phone versus the 27 percent that preferred going online to make an appointment.

Only 14 percent of consumers were interested in doing a video chat, like Skype, to talk to a doctor after hours about a health-related need, while 57 percent wanted to call a number that offered a call-back feature to get their questions answered. Thirty percent wanted to call a 24-hour number. Just under 20 percent of Generation Y and Generation X consumers wanted to go online for answers, but an even smaller number, 10 percent, of the other age groups were interested in online video features.

“It’s hard not to notice as we go through these activities that the less familiar the activity becomes the more people tend to prefer that traditional mode of communication,” Catalyst Healthcare Research Manager Simon Lynn said during the webinar. “But with the younger generations, you can definitely see that preference evolving when it comes to this kind of communication with healthcare professionals.”

The researchers also pointed out that between 2012 and 2013, the number of visits on video visit platforms Teladoc, MDLive and American doubled in size from 200,000 to 400,000 visits.

  • Jaybags01

    Hey geniuses — did it occur to you that you might have arrived at the “result” of 93% because the survey you conducted was online?

  • Ving!

    There are several advantages of using email communication between physicians and patients, not the least of which is being able to exchange information much faster. I recently wrote a blog post that features a study showing the effectiveness of doctor-patient email communication: http://bit.ly/1kzizaF

  • Stewart Gandolf

    We have been teaching our doctor seminar attendees for years that one of the TOP THINGS patients want is the ability to email the office, yet doctors and staffs almost universally refuse. Thanks for the stats. Maybe that will help our argument.