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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Volume 54, n° 6
pages 1019-1024 (juin 2006)
Doi : 10.1016/j.jaad.2006.02.046
accepted : 2 February 2006
REPORTS

Clinical e-mail in an academic dermatology setting
 

Kevin F. Kia, BS, Anna Tavakkoli, Charles N. Ellis, MD
From the Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School and the Dermatology Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System 

Reprint requests: Charles N. Ellis, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 E Medical Center Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0314.

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Abstract
Background

Use of e-mail among patients and physicians is limited by reservations over issues such as medicolegal aspects, reimbursement, and time-management.

Objective

Our purpose was to identify the content of patient-related e-mails in an academic dermatology practice and determine whether clinical questions could be answered by e-mail.

Methods

The first 100 e-mails received each year that related to patients from January 1, 2000 to June 1, 2005 (plus any messages received in e-mail threads started in the original 100) were studied (N = 614). E-mails were sent by patients, potential patients, or physicians in reference to a patient. E-mails were divided into 8 categories on the basis of content. E-mails were subdivided as relating to new (patients who had never been seen in-person) or established patients. All clinical questions were categorized as to whether they were answered by e-mail. The average number of e-mails received per e-mail thread was tallied.

Results

E-mails were distributed as follows: clinical question from a physician (20%), clinical question from a patient (17%), appointment request (18%), request for referral to another physician (7%), prescription refill (3%), research inquiry (2%), thank-you correspondence (31%), other (17%). Percentages do not equal 100 because some e-mails contained more than one subject. Clinical questions were more likely to be answered when posed by physicians (100%) than patients (70%; P = .001), and when from established (79%) versus new patients (60%; P = .02). There were fewer e-mails per thread for queries from physicians (1.6 messages received) versus patients (2.2; P < .001) and for established (1.6) versus new patients (2.2; P < .001).

Limitations

This study was limited to the experience of one dermatologist in an academic setting.

Conclusion

E-mail broadens communication between patients and their dermatologist. E-mail may facilitate consultation with other physicians and management of patients with chronic disease. “Thank-you” responses engage a substantial amount of e-mail resources.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

 Supported by the clinical funds of and alumni donations to the University of Michigan, Department of Dermatology.
Conflicts of interest: None.
Presented in poster format at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, San Francisco, March 3-7, 2006.



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