A rheumatology email service: an audit of its effectiveness as an alternative means of communication with our nursing service.


Norma Ferris, Nimmi Abrahm, Bini Jolly John, Alexia Kelly


Department of Rheumatology. St. Vincent's university Hospital


Our rheumatology email service allows our patients an alternative route of contact with our rheumatology nursing service. The email service has grown significantly in recent months and many of our patients use the service as an alternative point of contact to our telephone helpline. The provision of both our telephone helpline and email service is regarded by most of our patients as a welcome extension of specialist rheumatology outpatient service. The unpredictable nature of chronic diseases often results in a requirement to access our service outside of scheduled outpatient appointments. Our email service is utilised not only by patients, but their families, GP’s, practice and public health nurses and other involved health professionals.


To audit our rheumatology email service as distinct from our telephone help line. In order to improve our service and care for our patients optimally, audit of this service and identification of areas of greatest need requiring development and enhancement is crucial.


We reviewed our emails over a 6 month time period and divided them into specific categories including, request for repeat prescriptions, flare management, medication side effects and request for earlier/change appointments.
We reviewed the demographics of those patients who used our email service in preference to our phone line and measured our response times.


Our audit confirmed that our younger patient cohort use our email service in preference to our telephone service. The majority of our email queries were related to medication management, however, as with our telephone service, requests for repeat prescriptions continue to be a dominant feature of all contacts to the rheumatology nursing service.


Email is a valuable addition to our nursing service. The service will continue to be audited with the addition of a patient satisfaction survey to be conducted in the next 3 months looking at all current routes of communication with the rheumatology nursing service