This was a great post and an important topic. The literature suggests that while in past decades many people felt that healthcare professionals were above them and that the professionals gave the instructions while they followed without questioning, now that has changed. There has been an effort to increase health care self-efficacy among patients and to view the provider-patient relationship as more of a partnership. In order to accomplish this goal, communication is an important focus as is comfort level with asking questions.
In today’s technologically savvy world, most people use the internet and/or email. With the required use of Patient Portals in health care, a new avenue of patient provider communications has been created. In one study, the authors showed that in an ethnically diverse patient population, the majority of participants used email. Seventy-five percent expressed a preference to communicate with their healthcare providers through email but only 20 percent had done so. This expressed interest was highest in the younger patients who commonly used internet communication methods (Schickedanz, Huang, Lopez, Cheung, Lyles, Bodenheimer, & Sarkar, 2013).

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These findings indicates an unmet need that could provide a more comfortable means of patient-provider communication. Since patients are often more comfortable speaking with their nurse than their physician, online communications through patient portals could enhance the quality of communication and willingness to communicate for patients. This would be particularly useful for those patients who may continue to feel some anxiety about communicating their needs and health care status to their provider. Improved communication would not only improve patient understanding of their healthcare status, treatment issues and follow-up care coordination, it would make patients feel that their provider care about their well-being strengthening the provider patient relationship.

  • Schickedanz, A., Huang, D., Lopez, A., Cheung, E., Lyles, C. R., Bodenheimer, T., & Sarkar, U.
    (2013). Access, interest, and attitudes toward electronic communication for health care among patients in the medical safety net. Journal of general internal medicine, 28(7), 914-920.