Take Two Pills and E-Mail Me in the Morning
You're a busy parent. Who isn't? Wouldn't it be great if—instead of playing phone tag or having to set up an office visit—you had some other way to ask your pediatrician minor questions?
Today, there's a chance you can, via e-mail. More and more doctors are willing to stay in touch with patients via secure e-mail. A few insurers have even begun to pay doctors (often with small copayments from you) for so-called e-medicine visits. Ask your health care provider's office if they accept e-mails from patients and what they consider a reasonable reason to use e-mail.
"It's a good way to get through to your pediatrician's office without having to deal with phone calls and busy signals or having to be available when the physician is available," says Robert Gerstle, M.D., chairman of the policy committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Clinical Information Technology. "If the issue comes up at 8 or 11 o'clock at night, you can send off your question then and expect a response in a reasonable amount of time, possibly by the next morning, usually within one or two business days."
E-mail creates a written record, too. It's easy to add to your child's medical records. "That way, there's no misunderstanding about what was or wasn't said," says Dr. Gerstle, a pediatrician in Springfield, Mass.
Although e-mail is fine for routine needs, it is definitely not for emergencies. "If your child has broken a leg or is running a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, pick up your phone and call your doctor's office," Dr. Gerstle warns.
Among his tips for getting the most from e-mail:
Identify yourself and your child. Your doctor may not be able to tell who you are from your e-mail address. Some doctors' e-mail systems ask for passwords and patient ID information, such as birth dates or Social Security numbers.
Limit each e-mail to one issue, whether it's a scheduling request, billing query or question for your doctor. This raises the odds that your message will reach the right person for a quick response.