Digital Doctor's Appointments: Can You Just Email the Doc?

emailPlaying phone tag with the doctor is about as fun as putting your feet up in those cold metal stirrups. Luckily, there's a better, less frustrating way. Physicians all over the country are warming up to answering our medical questions via email.

According to a Harris Interactive poll, 90 percent of patients would like to exchange emails with our docs, but only 15 percent of us actually do.

I've been able to email my gynecologist--a brilliant, elderly man who is totally tech savvy--for at least four years. He was instantly able to ease my fears during my first pregnancy, stuff like, 'Will the soy milk in my latte give my baby man boobs?' He'd respond quickly: 'Certainly soy milk won't give your child breasts, Kristen. But do cut down on the lattes.'

Are you thinking about digital doctor's appointments? Sometimes, you can just email your doc, too. Here are tips for when to e and when to go see.


First, at your next in-person appointment, ask your doctor about his email policy. Assure him you will only e when you have real concerns, and you'll keep your questions short. Promise him that you'll never send him jokes about penguins in bars.

Here is more advice on when to email and when to go in person from Barbara Walters, M.D., a senior medical director at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire.

When to E-see:

  • If you've seen the doctor for these symptoms before. Think allergies or sinusitis.
  • If it's a routine check-in, like for chronic conditions like diabetes.
  • If you have questions about a condition or diagnosis—and don't require a physical exam.

When to go see:

  • If you have a new doctor. A physician should have a broad knowledge of your health history before you start e-mail appointments.
  • If you've never had the symptoms before. Many women misdiagnose themselves—thinking they have strep throat when most often they have a common cold virus.
  • If it's been more than a year since you've seen the doctor. They'll check your weight and blood pressure and other general health measures that can be important clues.

Some of my doctors are open to digital doctor's appointments, others aren't. Don't you think it would be easy to just e them? Have you done it?

Read More >