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E-mail Communication Can Improve Care Quality, Says Study

Patient-physician e-mail messaging can improve the quality of care for patients with diabetes and hypertension, according to new research from Kaiser Permanente.

Secure patient-physician e-mail messaging can improve the quality of care for patients with diabetes and hypertension, according to new research from Kaiser Permanente.

The study, published in the July issue of Health Affairs, found that use of secure patient-physician messaging in any two-month period was associated with statistically significant improvements in HEDIS (Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) care measurements. Results included 2.0 to 6.5 percentage- points improvements in glycemic, cholesterol and blood pressure screening and control.

“This data proves that health IT can be a fundamental component of accomplishing those three critical goals,” said George Halvorson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente.

In the study, 35,423 patients with diabetes, hypertension, or both based in Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California region were observed. More than 556,000 secure patient-physician e-mail threads, containing more than 630,000 messages, were logged, with patients initiating 85% of those threads. This, says Kaiser, shows that “health IT is empowering patients to better manage their health care.”

Kaiser Permanente’s secure e-mail tool, “E-mail my doctor,” is a feature of its personal health record. The organization has found that the leading reasons patients contact physicians are to discuss changes in a health condition, lab test results, a new condition, drug dosage adjustments, or the need for a new prescription.

This study is one of the first to show that these electronic communications have a measurable positive effect on patient outcomes, in addition to improving efficiency. For more information on the study, click here.