Patients are interested in secure electronic communication with their health-care providers, but physicians have been slow to adopt the technique into their practice. We have therefore reviewed the literature on secure patient messaging. Relevant studies were identified by Medline search which produced 1065 publications. Of these, 71 relevant articles were read independently by two reviewers. Currently available messaging systems allow for asynchronous communication, physician reimbursement and automated supporting functions such as triaging of patient messages and integration of messaging into medical records. The review showed that patients are satisfied with the use of secure physician messaging systems and find such services to be convenient, time-saving and useful. Physicians do not report adverse effects from their use. Legal concerns with electronic messaging include compliance with privacy standards. The economic benefits of secure messaging systems are most immediately apparent for larger health-care groups and hospitals, although smaller practices will also benefit in the long run. Secure patient-physician messaging is a convenient and useful addition to the health-care infrastructure. It can be expected that the identification of secure providers, integration with reimbursement systems and initial uptake by larger health-care organizations will speed up the adoption into routine health care.