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3/25/2011
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Social Media Rejected For Healthcare Communications

Online channels are popular for administrative tasks like appointment setting and billing, but patients vastly prefer traditional communications when consulting with doctors, according to Capstrat poll.

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According to a Capstrat-Public Policy Polling survey, 84% of respondents said they would not use social media or instant messaging channels for medical communication if their doctors offered it. Instead, respondents said they prefer to turn to traditional electronic lines of communication, such as email and website interactions, when they need specific health consultations from their own doctor.

The results show that, while social media has a strong and growing role in healthcare communications among peer communities of patients, it is not the communication vehicle of choice when Americans want to discuss medical issues with their doctors.

The poll, which surveyed 843 registered voters on February 21 and 22, shows that even among people 18 to 29 years of age, an age group that seems more prone to using electronic health communication, only 21% said they would take advantage of an online forum if offered.

However, this doesn't mean the use of all digital communication is out of the question for patient-provider interaction. Respondents were more favorable toward email and online channels when used for appointment setting, medical record access, and nurse consultation.

"It appears consumers are willing to move administrative experiences such as bill payment and records access online, but when it comes to conferring with their healthcare providers, people still prefer more traditional communications," Karen Albritton, Capstrat's president, said in a statement. "The implications include a way for doctors to free up more time for their patients by moving the right interactions online, and an opportunity to forge stronger connections through personal interaction."

The Capstrat survey echoes the findings of another recent poll. Intuit Health's second-annual Health Care Check-Up Survey found that 73% of respondents said they would use a secure online communication solution to make it easier to get lab results, request appointments, pay medical bills, and communicate with their doctor's office.

The Capstrat survey also found differing attitudes among different demographic groups. Hispanics said they were more comfortable interacting with their doctors online: 89% would take advantage of email if their doctors offered it; 89% would set appointments online; 78% would participate in online bill payment; and 89% would call a nurse help line. In fact, the nurse help line was the preferred form of communication across all demographic and age groups, with 72% of respondents saying they would take advantage of a nurse help line if it was offered by their doctor.

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