The medium is the message

The medium is the message

A doctor wrote a letter to the Boston Globe complaining about an article that gave tips on how to select a doctor, and had suggested finding a doctor who uses email:

Emphasizing the role of e-mail access in selecting a physician is questionable. E-mail is a tool for communication and not a criteria [sic] for a good physician. How the physician communicates with the patient is far more important.

Of course communication style matters, but email –or better yet, structured messaging using a tool such as RelayHealth– is convenient and provides much better access to the physician. I wrote a 2-line message to my doctor at 6 am on Monday about symptoms that were bothering me and asking for a referral. By 8 am he had responded with the name and # of the specialist and let me know he’d informed his staff of the referral. By 9:15 am I’d made an appointment with the specialist.

In the “traditional” world I would have had to wait until the doctor’s office opened, then left a message with the receptionist. Eventually the doctor would have called back and probably would have had to leave a message –he probably wouldn’t have made the referral without speaking with me.

I wouldn’t pick a physician who didn’t use electronic messaging. “How the physician communicates” is affected by whether or not they use email.

January 29, 2006

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