OAKLAND, Calif., July 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Does being able to email your doctor mean less time in the doctor's office? Preliminary research is mixed, but in the latest issue of the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, Kaiser Permanente calls for a new way to evaluate how and why patients and physicians use secure email.
"The quality and member-retention benefits of the use of secure email at Kaiser Permanente are well documented," said Terhilda Garrido, vice president of Health IT Transformation and Analytics, Kaiser Permanente. "For a full picture of the impact of secure email, more granular analysis of associations between patient-physician secure email and health care utilization is needed."
The JACM article concludes that a new approach is required to fully understand associations between secure patient-physician email and utilization of health care services that takes into account longtime users, specific clinical conditions and care processes, and other factors that could impact results.
The health care organization is currently analyzing more than 15 million secure emails from more than 4.5 million members to answer those questions.
"We're digging deep into this data to better understand how physicians are using secure email to engage with patients, and what the motivation for emailing physicians is for members — convenience, managing chronic conditions, non-urgent care or any combination of factors," said Garrido.
The JACM article highlights the following studies that provide a pathway to future research:
- A 2012 Journal of Managed Care study found that using kp.org, Kaiser Permanente's patient portal, increased patient loyalty and that users were 2.6 more likely to remain members than those not using the website.
- A 2010 Health Affairs study found that the usage of secure email between physicians and patients was associated with improved quality of care (shown with HEDIS effectiveness of care measures).
- Several studies on the effect of secure email on physician workload, including a 2007 American Journal of Managed Care study and a 2012 Journal of American Medical Association study that reported mixed results on the association between the use of secure email and utilization of services.
Half of recorded encounters between primary care providers and patients at Kaiser Permanente are virtual. Secure email makes up 33 percent of that number. In 2013, Kaiser Permanente members sent 14.8 million emails to their physicians.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve approximately 9.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.
SOURCE Kaiser Permanente