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Clinical Challenges in Otolaryngology
April 1999

Is E-mail an Effective Medium for Physician-Patient Interactions?

Author Affiliations
 

KAREN H.CALHOUNMDRONALD B.KUPPERSMITHMD

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999;125(4):468-470. doi:10.1001/archotol.125.4.468

E-mail is an effective medium for physician-patient interactions.

In recording the patient's medical history and conducting the physical examination, will physicians have to ask, "What Internet sites have you visited?"1 The proliferation of information available on the Internet, combined with widespread access at home and work within the United States, provides patients with unprecedented exposure to health care information and advice. Patients are obviously interested in accessing this information; a report2 from MSNBC revealed that 43% of all users actively searched the Internet for health information in 1997. Patients' access to online health information raises many new issues for the practicing clinician. A common concern is the ability of patients to understand the information they encounter and to discern its accuracy. Because of this concern, an important new responsibility of the physician is to recognize that patients are accessing this information, to encourage patients to discuss their findings, to help them interpret the information, and to guide patients to credible sources. While physicians cannot control which Internet resources patients choose to access, each physician must consider whether to participate in direct physician-patient communication through the use of e-mail.

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