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YOUR HEALTH: COVID is changing our doctor's visits

The pandemic has changed the way we communicate, will it affect the way we talk with our doctors?

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Not quite ready to facetime your physician? 

You may not be alone.

By computer, email, or text, the way we connect with our doctors and keep tabs on our personal health information is changing. 

Although this technology is widely available (90% of healthcare organizations are already using some form of patient portal access), new research, conducted just before the pandemic, indicates less than half of all patients are tapped-in. 

Indiana University Health Information researchers found: 

     - 24% of patients would email their healthcare providers

     - 18% felt comfortable texting

     - 31% reported using an electronic health messaging system platform.

"Some people don't know about it. Some people know that it exists but are not comfortable yet using it. So, there is definitely room for improvement," said Joy L. Lee, a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute at Indiana University.

Using healthcare platforms can reduce office visits and make it easier for patients to review test results. 

These portals require patients to set up an account and a password, but researchers say there's a benefit to having a physician's instructions at your fingertips.

"Some early studies suggest that it can have an impact on patient outcomes," explained Dr. David Haggstrom, another research scientist on the team.

"In particular, patients with chronic disease or diabetes have seen improved outcomes."

The researchers say patients need to confirm their communication preferences with their providers. 

There's also concern that your private medical information won't stay private.  

It's a concern among 10% of those surveyed.

The experts say your best bet is to use your healthcare provider's online patient portal.  

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.