As the nation seeks alternatives to soaring drug prices, from prescribing generics to Congressional investigations into price-gouging, a new study reveals the existence of a very cheap medical innovation: Email.

A study of 1,041 chronically ill patients in northern California by Kaiser Permenante finds that a third who exchanged emails with their doctors feel that the communication improved their health outcomes. The sizeable minority reporting improved results suggests that a widespread adoption of doctor-patient emails could have a big impact on public health.

Specifically, 32 percent of patients who exchanged an email with a health care provider said that the message improved their outcome, while 67 percent said it did not make a difference. Less than 1 percent said the communication led to a worse outcome. 

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