Patient access to U.S. physicians who conduct internet or e-mail consults

J Gen Intern Med. 2007 Mar;22(3):378-81. doi: 10.1007/s11606-006-0076-1.


Background: E-mail communication has the potential to improve communication between patients and doctors.

Objective: The objective of the study is to describe the access of patients to physicians who conduct e-mail consults.

Methods: We analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of office-based physician visits, in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The main outcome measure was the percentage of visits to a provider who reported doing internet or e-mail consults.

Results: There was fewer than 1 in 10 outpatient visits in 2001 (9.2%) to physicians who reported doing internet or e-mail consults, and this did not increase in 2002 (5.8%) or 2003 (5.5%). Access to these physicians was greater among patients who were male, nonminority, lived in the Western United States, seen for pre-/postoperative care, seen by a primary care provider, and not seen by a nurse during their visit. Access to physicians who conducted internet or e-mail consults was independent of other patient (e.g., chronic conditions), provider (e.g., office setting), and visit (e.g., medications prescribed) characteristics.

Conclusions: Access to physicians who do internet or e-mail consults is generally low and did not increase between 2001 and 2003, despite growth in internet access and in other internet-related activities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / trends
  • Electronic Mail / trends*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / trends*
  • Humans
  • Internet / trends*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / trends*
  • Referral and Consultation / trends
  • United States