While social media has a strong and growing role in healthcare communications among peer communities of patients, a new national Capstrat-Public Policy Polling survey finds Americans still turn to traditional lines of communication when they need specific health consultation from their own doctor.

More than five of six respondents (84 percent) said they would not use social media or instant messaging channels for medical communication if their doctors offered it. Even among Millennials (18 to 29 years old), an age group that seems ripe for electronic health communication, only 21 percent said they would take advantage of an online forum if offered.

But this doesn’t mean the use of all digital communication is out of the question for patient-provider interaction. Respondents were more favorable toward email and online channels when used for appointment setting, medical record access, and nurse consultation.

The survey found different attitudes along certain demographic lines. Hispanics said they were more comfortable interacting with their doctors online: 89 percent would take advantage of email if their doctors offered it; 89 percent would set appointments online; 78 percent would participate in online bill payment; and 89 percent would call a nurse help line. In fact, the nurse help line was the preferred form of communication across all demographic and age cohorts.

“It appears consumers are willing to move administrative experiences such as bill payment and records access online, but when it comes to conferring with their healthcare providers, people still prefer more traditional communications,” says Capstrat president Karen Albritton. “The implications include a way for doctors to free up more time for their patients by moving the right interactions online, and an opportunity to forge stronger connections through personal interaction.”