Electronic mail communication between physicians and patients: a review of challenges and opportunities

Fam Pract. 2016 Apr;33(2):121-6. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv101. Epub 2015 Dec 28.


Although promising benefits hold for email communication between physicians and patients in terms of lowering the costs of health care while maintaining or improving the quality of disease management and health promotion, physician use of email with patients is still low and lags behind the willingness of patients to communicate with their physicians through email. There is also a discrepancy between physicians' willingness and actual practice of email communication. Several factors may explain these discrepancies. They include physicians differ in their experience and attitude towards information technology; some may not be convinced that patients appreciate, need and can communicate by email with their doctors; others are still waiting for robust evidence on service performance and efficiency in addition to patient satisfaction and outcome that support such practice; and many are reluctant to do so because of perceived barriers. This report is a review of the literature on the readiness for and adoption of physician-patient email communication, and how can challenges be or have been addressed. The need for Governmental support and directives for email communication to move forward is iterated, and opportunities for future research are pointed out.

Keywords: Communication; electronic mail; medical informatics; physician–patient relations; primary care; review..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication*
  • Electronic Mail*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / methods
  • Physician-Patient Relations*