Privacy is another element that is vital to the e-mail consultation process, and it's an area of concern that Davis, Sizemore-Ruiz and Handley all take seriously in their practices.
"We actually share their whole health record online with them so they can see their immunizations, medications, [and] make appointments online," said Handley. "It's much more secure than a paper chart. We do that in a compliant way that meets all the industry standards for privacy."
"There are HIPAA-compliant e-mail companies that you can use and you can also password protect the e-mail and the patient also has a password," said Sizemore-Ruiz. "Also in our particular electronic medical records system, we can send e-mails through our EMR, which is HIPAA-compliant."
Patient demand for email consultations is clearly growing, but how quickly remains to be seen.
"I don't know how quickly this will move," said Davis. "There is such high patient expectation and demand that I think the opportunity is there for physician practices and health plans to try to sort this out sooner rather than later and capture the appeal of this particular way of interacting with physicians that patients are obviously seeking."