Health care reform legislation includes promoting electronic health records to improve the efficiency and quality of medical care. Yet, little attention has been paid to understanding whether parents have an interest in interacting with their children’s physicians in this way.
A new nationwide poll asked 1,612 parents about how they communicate with their children’s health care providers. Results showed that less than 15% can currently access their physician on-line, although almost half would like to do so.
“Electronic communication between parents and their children’s health care providers offers a lot of potential benefits,” says Matthew Davis, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases in the CHEAR Unit at the U-M Medical School. “For administrative tasks that almost all parents need to complete, electronic communication can reduce wasted time and minimize frustration for both parents and office staff. For clinical services, parents often have questions about whether minor injuries or illnesses require an office visit; electronic communication provides a way to obtain advice without waiting on hold for long periods of time.”
While having access to electronic methods of communicating with physicians may increase efficiency for parents, challenges exist for widespread adoption of online communication by physicians.
“Some health care providers have expressed concerns about reimbursement for electronic services that require staff time. Others worry about medical liability associated with offering clinical advice via e-mail or the Internet, without examining the patient,” says Davis.