Will money make doctors talk?
We all know that email has changed the way we communicate on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure you use it to keep up with friends, family members, and professional contacts…like I do. However, do you use email to correspond with your doctor?
In our recent 2014 “What’s Reasonable?” study, we found that nearly everyone that’s already online wants email access to their doctor. In fact, 93% of our respondents told us that they would choose a doctor that uses email over one that does not, all other factors being equal. And 25% of those people would pay $25 per episode to communicate with their doctor via email.
Emailing is certainly convenient for the patient, because it allows us the opportunity to send along a question or comment when it’s convenient for us.
But what about for the provider–the doctor or nurse, at the receiving end of that email?
Doctors and other providers have been slow to embrace this idea for a number of reasons, some of them very sound. It creates an additional workflow for the doctor, without any additional reimbursement (in most cases). There are issues related to privacy and HIPAA. There could be issues related to quality of care, based on miscommunication. And a constant stream of incoming emails raises the specter of putting a doctor “on call” basically well-beyond their already long hours.
Nevertheless, One Medical Group has made a business out of allowing patients online access to doctors, as part of a new model of primary care. For $199 a year, you get:
- Email communication with your doctor
- Preferred access for same-day appointments
- Digital access to your medical records
- Digital access to your lab and test results
- Digital Rx refills
- Digital communication for treatment (common issues)
Physicians will be involved with email to a much greater degree than ever before as Meaningful Use takes hold. Patients will then be able to contact doctors through a provider’s patient portal. Reimbursement of the dollars spent to build the portal and be “more wired” are dependent on at least some nominal degree of online interaction. But will doctors go further and use email to extend their services? And will payers, employers, and maybe consumers pay them to do so? The demand for email with a doctor is apparent. How this demand will be met is not yet clear.