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Study: Americans want to talk to doctors on Facebook, email

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Americans communicate with their trusted friends and family on Facebook. Why not their doctors?

In a recent survey of more than 2,250 U.S. pharmacy customers, 57 percent of respondents said they were very interested in using Facebook and email to talk to their doctors and manage their health. A majority also said they wanted to use their doctors' websites to access their health information.

And about 46 percent of patients surveyed want to be able to use email to track their health progress.

The survey study, by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was published last week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

A number of patients say they are already connecting online with their docs – one-third by email and 18 percent via Facebook, which is surprising because many health care providers ban that type of communication because of ethics and privacy issues, The Huffington Post notes.

The American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards advise doctors against "friending" or contacting patients through Facebook and Twitter.

“The medical establishment needs to figure out how best to incorporate this reality into their practice while properly ensuring security safeguards,” study leader Joy Lee, a post-doctoral fellow at the Bloomberg School, said in a press release. “This is an area where there is significant patient interest, but institutions and health care providers haven’t caught up.”

The study notes that among those more likely to use Facebook and email to communicate with doctors were younger adults, caregivers, patients with chronic conditions and – not surprisingly – regular Facebook users.

Some medical practices are already making it easier to go online to message doctors and access test results, as part of a telehealth movement, Huffington Post notes.

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