Kaiser study suggests email may reduce costs, increase health outcomes

The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC) published a Kaiser Permanante study that links email between patients and physicians to improved care. The goal of the study was to understand how patients utilize email with their physicians and discover correlations between patient engagement and out-of-pocket costs.

The studies major findings include:

  • Patients with higher out-of-pocket cost-sharing for visits were significantly more likely to rely on e-mail as their first method of contact in regards to a health concern.
  • More than 1 in 3 patients who sent an e-mail to providers reported that it reduced their phone contacts or office visits.
  • Nearly one-third of patients who sent an e-mail to providers reported that it had improved their overall health.


Mary E. Reed, DrPH, staff scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and the study’s lead author believes that patient engagement through email has potential in affecting higher quality outcomes:

“We found that a large proportion of patients used email as their first method of contacting health care providers across a variety of health-related concerns…As more patients gain access to online portal tools associated with electronic health records, emails between patients and providers may shift the way that health care is delivered and also impact efficiency, quality and health outcomes.”

The study group included Kaiser Permanente health system members using the patient portal system, who were 18 and who were diagnosed with a chronic disease. Participants also had to be enrolled through in a employer-sponsored health insurance plan for the duration of the study.