You do not really have any other option besides IMAP, unless you want to pair with specific services like Exchange Web Services.
PHP has a very comprehensive set of functions regarding IMAP. I would suggest checking it out. Unfortunately, there is not really anything you can do from within PHP to prevent having to poll.
My suggestion is checking in the background if new mails have arrived. For example by checking from within a cronjob. That way you don't have to initiate a new connection to an IMAP server every time a users visits the page.
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