Physicians prefer using cell phones to communicate with patients

Communication between patient and physician is the foundation in building a close relationship—and cell phones have become the favored tool in clinical communication, according to a study published in European Journal for Person Centered Healthcare.

Keeping up with patients outside the office has become increasingly easier thanks to advancements in technology. This study examined which types of digital tools physicians use to communicate with patients. Led by Joy L. Lee, PhD, of the Regenstrief Institute's Center for Health Services Research in Indianapolis, this study aimed to provide insight into the impact of such technology and concerns physicians have regarding the new means of communication.

"It's time that doctor and patient have a face-to-face conversation during an office visit explaining how each feels about electronic communication," said Lee. "Patients can discuss their electronic access and their comfort level with getting information electronically. Physicians can share their own concerns with patients."

Data was collected from 149 primary care providers from 2012 to 2013 who completed a 16-question survey. Results found clinicians using a cell phone to communicate with patients more often than email. However, 70 percent of respondents stated they would use email if a patient had emailed them first. The main concerns reported by providers included patients missing important messages, patients misunderstanding the information sent electronically and the time they spend electronically communicating with patients.

"This study has several implications,” stated Lee and colleagues.”For patients, that physicians would use email if prompted by their patients indicates patient power in patient-provider communications and that patients should be empowered to ask their providers about communicating electronically in a way that works best for both parties though few physicians will offer to unprompted. For providers, as patient use of electronic communication increases, they need to consider how best to communicate and deliver care electronically and overcome existing concerns.”