Patients love it. Physicians find it often saves them time and money. So why aren't more doctors burning up the email lines with their patients?
The questions come at all hours, popping up on Dr. Mark Seigel's personal email account: Can I dye my hair? Is it safe to drink red raspberry leaf tea? When will the nausea stop?
Dr. Seigel, an OB-GYN with offices in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., answers them all.
"There are some patients, who are kind of like frequent fliers," he said. "I might get 20 emails from the same person. I know…they have fears and I'm mindful of that."
Most doctors don't agree with Dr. Seigel's approach. As the rest of the world has raced ahead with instant communication, medicine still lags far behind. Just under one-third of doctors reported emailing with patients in 2012, up from 27% five years earlier, according to annual studies of more than 3,000 doctors conducted by Manhattan Research, a health-care market-research firm. Those texting rose from 12% in 2010 to 18% in 2012.