Are You Ready for Facebook Physicians? More Patients are Demanding IT

According to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a survey of more than 4,500 Americans found that 37 percent of patients emailed their M.D. and 18 percent contacted their doc via Facebook. And more patients would like that option. "Many people are already on email and Facebook for much of the day, so contacting their doctor via these modes just seems like a natural extension of how they already communicate," says Joy Lee, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and author of the study. But before you start friending your health care professional, consider a few of the issues that could arise. Privacy. Email accounts that are managed through employers or social media interactions could accidentally be made public. There are top concerns for physicians and their staff who are considering participating in online consultations and follow-ups with their patients. Urgency. The expectation of immediate response is increased when patients use email or text to contact their health care professionals. A patient may delay visiting the office or emergency room, hoping to hear back from a physician before making a decision to go in (and pay a co-pay or unnecessary bill). Access. The news isn't all bad. Maintaining a thread or trail of communications in cyberspace allows a physician to access records and history of a contact via online from anywhere with a secure connection. This could benefit the doctor and patient by giving a busy physician a bigger picture when consulting away from the office. What if your doctor isn't online? As the saying goes, there's an app for that. Doctor On Demand (free; itunes.com) and HealthTap (free; itunes.com) are two available apps that put you in touch with board-certified physicians with whom you can have a video conference with and who will provide a diagnosis. Are you ready to go virtual with your health care? Is this a good idea or just a symptom of our need-it-now society? h/t: Shape

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