Objective: There is a high demand by patients to communicate electronically with their doctor. This study evaluates the use of a web messaging system by staff and patients of UC Davis community Primary Care Network (PCN) clinic.
Design: Eight providers and their staff and patients were surveyed on use of this web messaging system, and physician productivity was measured with Relative Value Unit (RVU) and office visit data.
Results: 36.9% (238/645) of registered users responded to the survey. The web messaging system was preferred over phone calls by both providers and patients for the communication of non-urgent problems. A great majority of patients found it easy to use (88.8% or 206/232) and were satisfied (85.8% or 199/232). Satisfaction was significantly associated with timely provider response (Goodman-Kruskal Gamma = 0.667, 95% CI = 0.546-0.789). Clinicians were also favorable to the system and, despite concerns, were not inundated with messages. Most found it easy to use, perceived it to improve patient communication, and valued the insurance reimbursement capability. Furthermore, the system did not have a negative impact on physician productivity.
Conclusion: A patient-provider web messaging system, which provides a combination of security and access controls, customized routing, rich knowledge content, and insurance reimbursement capability, is a useful addition to the array of communication options available to health care providers and their patients.