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Last Updated: 2001-08-02 19:01:23 EDT (Reuters Health)
WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – Using e-mail and the Internet may allow physicians who feel that they do not have enough time to spend with patients to handle routine information, and thus allow more time for meaningful patient communication.
In his article in the British Medical Journal for August 4, Dr. David Mechanic from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, notes that although many physicians in the US and the UK feel they do not have enough time to spend with patients, patient/doctor time is increasing in both countries.
The way to change this perception, Dr. Mechanic suggests, is not to decrease physician workload, which he believes has not changed, but to redesign the mode of practice.
Some physicians think that e-mail will increase practice demands without substituting for care. However, "in principle, e-mail consultation should have similar advantages to telephone care without the disadvantages of patients and doctors trying to reach each other by telephone," he points out.
"Many excellent suggestions exist for how doctors can use the internet to communicate with patients, to provide information through a practice Web site, and to link patients with useful, valid, and relevant sources of information," he adds.
Specifically, Dr. Mechanic suggests that e-mail communication and physician Internet Web sites can efficiently deal with routine communications, such as scheduling appointments, making physician referrals and providing patient education. These measures, he notes, may reduce "unnecessary appointments, save the patient and doctor time and inconvenience and contribute to health education and patient responsibility."
Using e-mail and the Internet, Dr. Mechanic believes, will help physicians "reallocate time to more meaningful communication." In addition he suggests that "combining these technologies with ancillary staff provide the basis for more effective practice designs."
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