Consumers want digital communications from providers, from payment reminders to patient care via email



First posted on Health Populi on 12/17/2012

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Host of Health Populi

Consumers’ Favored Communications From Health Professionals85% of U.S. health consumers say that emails, text messages, and voicemails are at least as helpful as in-person or phone conversations with health providers, according to the TeleVoxHealthy World study, Technology Beyond the Exam Room. The study was based on surveys conducted with over 2,200 health providers across specialties, and 1,015 U.S. adults over 18.

Furthermore, one in 3 consumers admit to being more honest when talking about medical needs via automated voice response systems, emails or texts than face-to-face with a health provider.

And 3 in 10 consumers believe that receiving digital health communications from providers such as texts, voicemails or emails that provide patient care would build trust with their providers. 51% say they’d feel more valued as a patient via digital health communications.

Flu-Vaccination-InfograhicThe chart illustrates various communications messaging that consumers value via various digital channels. The red bar represents email: clearly, email is a valued channel across nearly all message types surveyed, from patient care (49%) and health tips (68%) to seasonal reminders (55%, THINK: flu shots, illustrated in the second infographic from TeleVox) and payment reminders (56%).

All consumers, from Gen X and Gen Y to Baby Boomers, look for these messages to be personally tailored, welcoming in the era of personalized medicine via digital communications.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Patients are educating themselves to be health consumers in the emerging healthcareDIY era. While payers and providers should be doing a better job preparing people to play this role, the education is largely done by people themselves. Consumers’ demands for digitally-delivered health services are central to this education, which nurtures empowerment and trust, as people pointed out in the TeleVox survey.

That 1 in 2 consumers (49%) say they’re open to receiving medical care between visits via email testifies to consumers’ demand for telehealth services. If payment can align between payers, providers and consumers to marshall distance health services to the home and workplace, we’ll be building a more satisfied, empowered, and healthy patient. Value-based and accountable care can help get us to this Patient 2.0.

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Patricia Salber, MD, MBA is the founder and host of The Doctor Weighs In. She is also the CEO of Health Tech Hatch, the sister site of TDWI that helps innovators tell their stories to the world. She is a Board Certified Internist and Emergency Physician who loves to write about just about anything that has to do with healthcare.


  1. It is an interesting vision of the future of the physician- patient relationship.

    Alignment of payment is just one of the steps in my mind though. There are several more hurdles I see

    – dealing with malpractice risk of NOT seeing a patient in person. If there is a bad outcome the defendant’s attorney can always make the case that the doctor’s decision to NOT see the patient and offer “electronic treatment advice” instead was responsible. I am not aware of case law addressing this issue that appears to be new for doctors giving meaningful advice via email, text and cell phone.

    – A redefinition of productivity. In a previous post here on TDWI I learned that Group Health expects their docs to be communicating with patients electronically for 20% of their office day. I hope this is instead of seeing patients … rather than in addition to a full plate of in-person patient visits.

    – the technology learning curve … especially for doctors over fifty years old who are not already tech savvy in some way.

    And the Patient 2.0 is indeed a sign of our interesting times. Can’t wait for a real TriCorder like Spock used to have!

    Dike Drummond MD

  2. There is a big difference between what people say they “want” and what they will actually use or do. Who would ever say that they wouldn’t like better, more convenient access to their lab results or the ability to make an appointment online. But let’s be honest….do you really believe that otherwise satisfied patients would “change” physicians simply because they did not offer secure email communications or online appointments?

    Similarly how do you explain the failure of Kaiser, for example, to achieve 100% member uptake of such digital services which are available to all its’ members.

    Steve Wilkins