Background: Information technology can support the delivery of healthcare. Patients are eager to make use of such tools as web messaging, yet its deployment has been limited to date. A fear still pervades that the cost associated with a possible increase to physician workloads may outweigh any suggested benefits.
Goal: This paper aims to review the body of research completed in the area of patient-physician web messaging. The findings of this review will then be assessed and synthesised, with the intention of creating an overview of both the benefits and costs of patient-physician online messaging. Areas of particular importance to future research may then be identified.
Results: Demand and support for online communication tools amongst patients is strong, and can increase quality of care due to increased patient-physician communication. Although there would seem to be great potential to increase process efficiency, there would not seem to be sufficient evidence as of yet to suggest that this is the case.
Conclusion: Further quantitative research in particular is required to assess the impact of online communication, with special regard to the effect on overall patient demand and on healthcare process efficiency.