E-mailing Your Physician – A Likely Trend?

This seems to be a topic hotly debated right now. I certainly would love to e-mail my physicians. Between travel and phone calls, we end up playing tag for days. Additionally, I love e-mail for its ability to provide me with a trail of what we discussed. Of course, there are lots of issues not least being reimbursement:

  • The studies show that visits go down when they use e-mail. Will they willingly reduce revenue?
  • If it is simply replaces the call, that is probably easy to justify. If it becomes more clinical in nature (i.e, an e-visit), what new issues does this bring in?
  • Is it secure? Is security any different than the phone today?
  • Is it your physician responding or someone on staff? Do you care?

“People are able to file their taxes online, buy and sell household goods, and manage their financial accounts,” said Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “The health care industry seems to be lagging behind other industries.” Doctors have their reasons for not hitting the reply button more often. Some worry it will increase their workload, and most physicians don’t get reimbursed for it by insurance companies. Others fear hackers could compromise patient privacy — even though doctors who do e-mail generally do it through password-protected Web sites.

There are lots of blog posts on this so I will point you to a few of them rather than starting a whole new discussion:

From a corporate perspective, I then have to ask whether health plans and PBMs should (or could) communicate with the physician through e-mail. Again, more efficient, allows them to track history (no more he said she said), accessible anytime, and can link to more information. My general opinion is that there must be a mechanism to parse the e-mails into buckets (general patient exchange, e-visit, payor information). They should get paid for the e-visit. The other two are just a new channel for what they do today. (There are separate arguments for whether they should get paid for those functions, but let’s not let that detract from solving one issue at a time.)

One Response to “E-mailing Your Physician – A Likely Trend?”

  1. Emailing my physician is a total win-win ! Harvard Vanguard Associates in Boston has deployed a secure “web mail” service, accesible through their double-securitized website for registered patients. Prescriptions can be renewed, appointments requested or changed, test results viewed and (most importantly) questions asked of your physicians. An incredible time saver.

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