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Clinical Challenges
April 1999

E-mail: Effective If Handled With Care

Author Affiliations


Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1999;125(4):471. doi:10.1001/archotol.125.4.471

If they have any complaint at all about their physician, people will usually mention the lack of communication. A book was written on this single issue.1 E-mail, as another means of facilitating communication and increasing patient satisfaction, should logically be a welcome aid in every practice. However, the question is whether e-mail is an effective medium for physician-patient interactions. Only one possible response can be made to that question. Yes, e-mail is effective, except when it is not. Kuppersmith correctly identifies the most useful aspect of e-mail: its asynchronicity; the facsimile, answering machine, and voice mail are also asynchronous. The physician and the patient do not need to be available at the same time. The major vice of e-mail, the lack of spontaneity and feedback, arises from that virtue. How often have you received a request for a prescription refill that necessitated asking multiple questions to ensure that the refill request is appropriate?

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