Nicholas Giovinco

[geō-VEEN-koh]

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CNN Opinion: "Will the doctor answer your e-mail?"

This is an interesting editorial piece by Kevin Pho, whereby he discusses the "e-patient" trend: http://us.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/06/07/pho.empowered.patient/index.html

In this a perspective is shed on the light of e-patients.  By this, patients who have researched their condition online.  What is somewhat ironic about this is that the more patients research, the more likely they are to be more demanding of the doctor's time.  Patient education is an important aspect to modern medicine.  Patients who are engaged and proactive have demonstrated somewhat positive results, as compared to patients who are not knowledgeable or invested.

Patients are using the Web in unprecedented ways for their own health empowerment. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 61 percent of American adults looked online for health information in 2009, up from 46 percent in 2000.

These "e-patients" are an essential part of the health care team, and play an increasingly influential role in the shared decision making process with their physicians.

By this, more knowledge seems to leave patients with more questions.  These questions are then deferred to the doctor, during the patient examination time.

Harvard internist Katherine Treadway wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that this leads to "care [becoming] increasingly fragmented, leaving patients angry and doctors frustrated. The time demands have exploded, which has eroded everyone's ability to develop the personal, long-term relationships that are a great source of satisfaction for providers and comfort for patients."

Furthermore, as other industries have embraced e-mail and digital record keeping, there is little financial incentive for doctors to use them. When a primary care doctor routinely sees 30 patients or more in a day, combined with hours wasted on health insurer bureaucracy, taking the additional time to e-mail patients is not fiscally feasible when it is not reimbursed by Medicare or most health insurers.