Kaiser Permanente researchers are calling for a new way to evaluate how and why patients and physicians use secure email.

The research, published in the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, concludes that a new approach is required to fully understand associations between secure patient-physician email and utilization of healthcare services that takes into account longtime users, specific clinical conditions and care processes, and other factors that could impact results.

“The quality and member retention benefits of the use of secure email at Kaiser Permanente are well documented,” said Terhilda Garrido, vice president of Health IT Transformation and Analytics at Kaiser Permanente. “For a full picture of the impact of secure email, more granular analysis of associations between patient-physician secure email and healthcare utilization is needed.”

Currently, Kaiser Permanente is analyzing more than 15 million secure emails from more than 4.5 million members to answer those questions.

The article highlights the following studies, plus others, that provide a pathway to future research:

* A 2012 Journal of Managed Care study found that using kp.org, Kaiser Permanente’s patient portal, increased patient loyalty and that users were 2.6 times more likely to remain members than those not using the website.

* A 2010 Health Affairs study found that the usage of secure email between physicians and patients was associated with improved quality of care, shown with HEDIS effectiveness of care measures.

The JACM article is available here.

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