Patients looking to connect with physicians through technology

April 30, 2014 by Amy Hewko, University of Alberta

With the answers to most medical questions easily available at our fingertips, it only makes sense that researchers are beginning to consider how communication technologies can help patients manage their health.

Medical researchers Marcello Tonelli and Arash Ehteshami have released a new publication in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that gauges how interested are in using email, text messaging and videoconferencing to connect with their physicians. Alberta Innovates – Health Solutions funded the study, which included about 1,850 adults aged 40 years and older with , diabetes, heart disease or prior stroke. All participants were from the four western provinces.

"With its vast geography, low population density and high portion of people living in , Canada is an excellent place to deploy information technologies," said Ehteshami, lead author and a former graduate student in Tonelli's laboratory at the University of Alberta. "Substantial interest was observed among patients 75 years and older."

Nearly 75 per cent of participants own a computer with Internet access or a cellphone. Two-thirds of participants expressed interest in connecting to their physician through email, making it the most popular option. Slightly less than 45 per cent said they were interested in using text messaging. Video conferencing saw a flux based on the type of appointment: 50 per cent of patients would use the technology to contact their primary physician, whereas 65 per cent would use it to contact a specialist.

The article states that has a lot of potential for patients living in rural areas, a theory that was reinforced in the results. "As expected, enthusiasm for information technology was more pronounced among those residing further from medical specialists," the authors noted.

In addition to distance, researchers showed that time also influences patients. Nearly half of the participants reported that they would prefer video conferencing over traditional face-to-face appointments if it could save more than one hour of their time. One-third expressed interest if it saved them at least 30 minutes.

Ehteshami says further research and detailed assessment should be completed before the strategy can be implemented: despite the high rates of interest reported by the patients, only one per cent had used the technologies to access services in the year prior to the survey.

"Even though there is a lot of interest in the implementation of different technologies, there is little evidence on exactly what role these types of systems could realistically play," he said.

Although most participants expressed interest in using information technology, not everyone was enthusiastic. The most commonly cited reasons against telecommunications include preferring personal contact with the provider, concerns for personal privacy and unfamiliarity with the types of technology.

Information for this study was gathered through the Canadian Community Health Survey, a biennial survey that collects information on the health of Canadians aged 12 years and older. Respondents who qualified for inclusion were sent an additional survey, entitled Barriers to Care for People With Chronic Health Conditions, which was administered through Statistics Canada.

"Information technologies might be the next chapter in delivery of health care," Ehteshami said. "Infrastructure and media to deliver care through these technologies should not only be user-friendly, but also be reliable, safe and able to protect the privacy of patients."

Explore further: Almost one-third of Canadian adults have experienced child abuse

More information: Arash Ehteshami Afshar, Robert G. Weaver, Meng Lin, Michael Allan, Paul E Ronksley, Claudia Sanmartin, Richard Lewanczuk, Mark Rosenberg, Braden Manns, Brenda Hemmelgarn, Marcello Tonelli, and on behalf of the Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration, "Capacity and willingness of patients with chronic noncommunicable diseases to use information technology to help manage their condition: a cross-sectional study." Canadian Medical Association Journal 2:E51-E59; published online April 16, 2014, DOI: 10.9778/cmajo.20130070

Related Stories

Almost one-third of Canadian adults have experienced child abuse

April 22, 2014
Almost one-third of adults in Canada have experienced child abuse—physical abuse, sexual abuse or exposure to intimate partner (parents, step-parents or guardians) violence in their home. As well, child abuse is linked ...

US adults want physicians managing their health care

December 24, 2013
(HealthDay)—U.S. adults prefer physicians to non-physicians for health care and would choose a physician to lead their medical team, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the American Academy of Family Physicians ...

Electronic health communications often unavilable to lower income patients

February 26, 2013
Lower-income patients want to communicate electronically with their doctors, but the revolution in health care technology often is not accessible to them, due to inadequate health information services within the health care ...

Rural primary care physicians offer insight into rural women's health care

February 5, 2014
Women living in rural communities are less likely than urban-dwelling women to receive sufficient mental health care, in large part due to limited access to services and societal stigma, according to medicine and public health ...

Most patients at diabetes risk consider themselves healthy

January 24, 2014
(HealthDay)—Nearly 80 percent of patients at elevated risk for type 2 diabetes think they are in excellent or very good health, according to a new survey from the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Telestroke the next best thing

October 4, 2011
The use of long-distance video and data hookups to link remote community hospitals with stroke neurologists in large centres provides the same level of care as having everyone in the same room, according to a new study presented ...

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.