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E-mailing Doctors Desirable for Those with Comorbidities

Patients who have multiple comorbidities and who take multiple medications may benefit most from a secure e-mail messaging system, according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation that appeared in the American Journal of Managed Care. Members of Kaiser Permanente's northwest region were given access to parts of their individual health records through a secure member Web site. Electronic messaging capability was provided within this secure Web environment.

Members who used this online Web site exhibited a decrease in primary care outpatient visits of 6.7 percent. Members who used the messaging feature had a smaller increase in telephone calls to their physician (16.2 percent versus 29.9 percent) compared to the control group, which did not have access to secure messaging.

"There are much more efficient ways to provide better care using electronic medical records, especially when the impact of secure messaging is considered," says Louise L. Liang, MD, one of the authors of the study.

She is senior vice president for quality and clinical systems support at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.

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