Thirty two percent of patients with chronic conditions who exchanged emails with their doctors, said that these communications improved their overall health. That’s according to a new study by Kaiser Permanente, published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

The study (n=1,041) was conducted on Kaiser Permanente patients in Northern California to assess how exchanging secure emails with doctors affects patient behavior, preferences, and perceptions about their own healthcare. Study patients had chronic conditions such as asthma, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes or hypertension. The study included patients who used My Health Manger, an online patient portal to send secure emails, and patients who had not sent any messages. 

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Kaiser Permanente members can utilize My Health Manager to schedule online appointments, refill prescriptions, and send secure messages to their clinicians. Key findings from the survey include:

  • Virtually all patients with chronic conditions said that exchanging email with their clinician either improved (32%) or did not change their overall health (67%); less than 1% said that emailing made their health worse.
  • More than half of respondents (56%) had sent their clinician an email within the previous year, and 46% used email as the first method of contact for one or more medical concerns.
  • Among patients who had emailed their clinician, 42% reported that it reduced phone contacts and 36% said it reduced in-person visits.

In addition, 85% of patients with higher cost sharing (deductible or copay of ≥$60 for office visits) chose email as their first method of communication vs. 63% of patients with lower cost sharing. 

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