Patients Want to Facebook Message Their Providers

June 25, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Sending Facebook messages or e-mails would be convenient ways for Internet-savvy patients to communicate with their health care providers.

Sending Facebook messages or e-mails would be convenient ways for Internet-savvy patients to communicate with their health care providers. In fact, some are already chatting with their doctors through these digital channels.

In a recent online survey, 37% of 2252 retail pharmacy customers who had at least 1 chronic condition in their household indicated that they had contacted a physician via e-mail in the last 6 months, and 18% had attempted the same via Facebook.

Younger patients and individuals with a higher income were more likely to want to contact physicians via e-mail or Facebook. Caregivers and those who were not white were also more prone to use these electronic communication methods.

“In this population of retail pharmacy users, there is strong interest among patients in the use of e-mail and Facebook to communicate with their physicians,” the researchers stated. “The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide.”

The researchers noted that, in many cases, patients are discouraged from communicating electronically with physicians outside the standard electronic health record system.

More than half of those surveyed (57%) said they wanted to use physicians’ websites for health information, and a little less than half (46%) said e-mail would be a useful way to keep track of their health progress.

Even though a large portion of respondents wanted to use Web-based tools to access their health information, only between 4% and 8% were doing so, which may mean that patients do not know these services are available.

“Improving and accelerating the adoption of secure web messaging systems is a possible solution that addresses both institutional concerns and patient demand,” the researchers concluded.

This study was funded by CVS Health and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.