E-Mail Your Doctor

6/14/2008 Phyllis Taxiera, patient, says "When I e-mail my doctor, she gets back to me within 15 minutes. It's great. It's a wonderful thing."

Taxiera's doctor is part of a growing number of physicians who take e-mail questions from their patients. Her physician, Doctor Orly Avitzur, is also a medical advisor at Consumer Reports. She's been taking e-mail questions from her patients for the last five years.

Doctor Avitzur says that allowing patients to e-mail her has benefited everyone. But there's certain protocol to follow. First, keep it simple. "If it's a complicated issue that will take your doctor more than five minutes to read and respond to, it's probably best that you make an appointment to come in."

Also, keep in mind some conditions can't be managed well via computer, including most new health problems and any medical emergency. "As a doctor, there's nothing worse than reading a day-old e-mail describing a medical crisis. In fact, the fear of missing a medical emergency is one reason many doctors won't use e-mail," says Dr. Avitzur.

"I think more people should try to do it, more doctors should get on the bandwagon," says Taxiera.

Consumer Reports says more and more physicians are adopting email in their practices. About 25 percent of all doctors say they've emailed patients at one point or another.

And remember, if you want to keep your medical queries private; do not send them from the office computer.

So, keep questions to your doctor short and simple and relief could be just a mouse-click away.

Worth noting, physicians don't necessarily charge for this service. But Consumer Reports says you should ask if there's a fee before you start emailing questions.

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