Published: February 7, 2020

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • Electronic messaging extra burden for physicians
  • Essential to develop management strategies
  • Templates, co-management, coverage systems effective

An article published by the American Academy of Family Physicians highlighted how crucial it is for physicians to develop an effective method of managing their electronic messages.

On a daily basis, physicians must respond to online prescription refill requests, reply to text messages, and navigate through a plethora of email messages. This extra workload can lead to physicians working late hours from home and adds extra stress to their careers.

It is crucial for practices and health care workers to establish strategies for managing electronic messages. A study published in JAMA Network Open offered a few approaches for effectively and efficiently managing various forms of electronic communication.

Findings:
Researchers found that there is not a single strategy that materialized as the favored method. However, researchers said that a range of strategies could be tailored to meet the specific needs of physicians. The study also found that participants were eager to learn how to effectively use and manage electronic messaging.

Individual Strategies:
1. “One touch” system to ensure opening an email just once; some made it a point to
2. Completely clear an inbox once per day
3. Review emails between patient visits or while working on other tasks
4. Regulated the pace in replying to patients to slow down communication cycles
5. Avoid creating unrealistic expectations for responding to patients

Group Strategies:
1. Set aside time each workday for inbox management
2. Develop coverage systems to review inboxes of physicians out on leave
3. Designating a physician to train other physicians on inbox management practices
4. Train medical assistants to co-manage electronic messages with their PCPs
5. Develop templates with bi-lingual, standardized replies to common administrative questions

Methodology:
The study focused on 24 primary care physicians from eight medical centers. Among the participants, nine were department chiefs and the other 15 were frontline primary care physicians.

Information from: American Academy of Family Physicians

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