Why don't more doctors use email?

It's hard to think of any occupation, any person for that matter, that doesn't rely on email these days. But medicine remains one of those areas where email is still a new phenomenon. Take parents and pediatricians. Parents want the convenience of emailing their pediatricians, but doctors tend to shy away from doing so because of privacy and safety concerns, says this piece that ran in yesterday's Health & Style section.

The story takes a look at a recent Johns Hopkins study that found even though parents want to communicate with their child's doctor through email, some physicians fear that parents will use e-mail in emergency situations, that it will lead to misunderstandings, or even that a message sent to a nonsecure computer constitutes a violation of privacy, the article explains.

Then there are worries about when a doctor's day starts and ends. If a doctor exchanges emails with a patient, does it imply they're on call around the clock? Will an insurance carrier reimburse a doc for sending an email? What about people who don't have email access? Are they forced to suffer with inferior care?

I wonder, too, do docs even have the time to email patients? Most of us find ourselves hurried through doctors appointments, as it is. And getting a doctor on the phone is no easy feat.

Still, I wonder if this becomes a place where medicine evolves. If enough parents, especially first-timers, who are known for calling pediatricians offices early and often, ask to email their doctors, will practices begin to do so?

The story quotes one doctor who thinks email has helped avoid phone tag with parents, some of whom have even sent him photos of their kids' rashes. 

What do you think? Does your doctor use email? If not, would you prefer if the doc did?

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