Jocelyn H. Schiller, MD, Jennifer G. Christner, MD, R. B. Stansfield, PhD, Patricia Mullan, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Caroline Watnick, BS, University of Michigan, Birmingham, MI
Background: Our M3 pediatric students respond to hypothetical emails from parents as to aid in evaluating knowledge, communication skills and professionalism.[i] Despite the large percentage of patients who want to e-mail their physicians, little is known about what patients desire in an e-mail from their physicians. Boudreau et al reported that there was little concordance between the lexicon patients used to describe ideal physician behaviors and a faculty-defined list of core physician attributes.[ii] Objectives: 1) To explore what parents desire in email communication with physicians. 2) To compare parental assessments to faculty assessments of students’ email responses. Methods /Design: Our study drew on an existing database of student email responses to a hypothetic parent email expressing concern of the son’s medical care. Focus groups of parents met to discuss patient-physician email communication. In the middle of the discussion, they were then given 3-6 student emails to read and evaluate. Transcripts were qualitatively analyzed, identifying themes parents identify about their expectations about email correspondence with physicians. The parents’ evaluation and faculty’s evaluation of students’ emails will be analyzed to look for differences in parents’ and faculty’s scores. Results: Themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis were: 1) fostering the relationship such as tone, respect, compassion 2) technical writing skills such as clear, concise writing, organization, avoiding jargon and 3) appropriate use. Parents expressed concern that the tone of email could be easily misunderstood but expressed a desire for more email communication with their providers. Analysis of parents’ evaluation and faculty’s evaluation is pending. Conclusions: This study explores the differences between what faculty think parents desire in e-mail communications and what parents truly want in e-mail communications from a health care provider. As use of email increases, we believe that this study will have impact on how communication is taught in medical education.