A statewide Indiana study shows that 47% of people are using technology to communicate with their health care providers, and less than a quarter are having conversations with their providers about using health information technology (HIT), according to a press release from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University. 

“The results of our statewide survey indicate patients are using health information technology,” said study author Joy L. Lee, PhD, in a press release. “However, they aren’t talking to their provider about it. One of the few widely agreed upon recommendations for electronic communication in health care is for providers to be talking to their patients about it ahead of time. This does not appear to be happening regularly and may be impacting the use of this technology.”

The study was conducted using surveys that were sent to Indiana University Health patients across the state of Indiana asking about their use of technology to communicate with their physician, according to the study authors.

The data showed that 47% of patients had used HIT for communication in the past year. Further, 31% of respondents reported using an electronic health record (EHR) messaging system, 24% used email, and 18% used text messages.

The researchers said that a statewide survey such as this gave a more representative snapshot of health behaviors, since these numbers have been similar to other research results from across the country. The numbers show a shift toward secure messaging, which is the platform health systems are encouraging people to use because of its integration with the EHR, according to the press release.

Out of all of the respondents, only 21% reported having a conversation with their physician or provider about how to correspond digitally. 

“This lack of conversation may lead to patients not taking advantage of these online communication platforms which have strong potential for patient engagement,” said senior study author David Haggstrom, MD, in a press release. “Individuals may be more likely to use messaging if they know what subjects are appropriate and how their provider might respond. We need to look at providing more support for both patients and providers to facilitate these conversations.”

Further, Haggstrom noted a rapid increase in the need for more remote communication due to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. 

About half of people use health technology to communicate with their health providers. Regenstrief Institute. https://www.regenstrief.org/article/half-use-health-technology-to-communicate-with-health-providers/. Published June 30, 2020. Accessed July 1, 2020.