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E-mail Between Physician and Parent Improves Communication and Can Lead to Better Pediatric Care, Children’s Hospital Study Finds

Results of study by rheumatologist Paul Rosen, MD, published in October issue of Pediatrics

E-mail communication between a parent and physician improves the health care experience for families of pediatric patients and can improve patient care, according to a study by a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC rheumatologist.

The study by Paul Rosen, MD, MPH, MMM, clinical director of the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at Children’s, found that parents who have e-mail access to their child’s physician report improved communication and care. Results of the study, titled “Patient-Physician E-mail: An Opportunity to Transform Pediatric Health Care Delivery,” are published in the October issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

According to a Harris Interactive report, 90 percent of patients would like the ability to e-mail their physician, however, only 10 percent of physicians and up to 30 percent of pediatricians are using a patient-physician e-mail system.

“E-mail is an important tool our patient families very much want to use,” said Dr. Rosen, an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It shouldn’t replace face-to-face visits or phone conversations for urgent or time-sensitive medical concerns, but it can be a very effective tool for improving communications with patients.”

Over a two-year period ending in April 2006, 121 patient families from Children’s Division of Pediatric Rheumatology utilized a physician e-mail service, generating 848 e-mails. Data recorded on each message included its level of urgency, subject, volume, time received and physician time spent responding to the e-mail. Parents were instructed to make e-mails concise and not to use e-mail for an emergency. The study authors also recorded similar data on parent questions called into the office via the telephone. After one year, families were mailed a 12-item satisfaction survey.

The study found that:

  • Physician time to respond to a question was reduced by 57 percent when using e-mail compared to telephone.
  • Families sent 40 percent of their e-mails outside normal business hours.
  • Urgent messages (notification of a disease flare, new symptoms, etc.) accounted for only 5.7 percent of the e-mails sent to physicians.
  • 86 percent of families agreed or strongly agreed that e-mail increases access to their child’s doctor.
  • 84 percent of families agreed or strongly agreed that more physicians should offer e-mail.
  • 80 percent of families agreed or strongly agreed that e-mail adds to the quality of communication with their child’s doctor.

Learn more about Dr. Rosen.
Learn more about the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology at Children’s.



Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 13, 2008
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Last Update
February 13, 2008