A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study showed that patients with online access actually scheduled more visits. The authors, when tallying the results, let out a massive and collective “WTF?”. They didn’t know why this happened but their theories included:
- Maybe patients who signed up for online access were sicker than those who didn’t, although his study tried to control for that.
- It could be that doctors who aren’t used to an online give-and-take with patients asked them to come in more often to clear things up.
- It could be that the new online relationship between doctors and patients means that, together, they’re catching important health indicators that were getting missed in the past, and patients are getting better care.
In the NPR article I cited above, Judy Murphy was quoted. She is an information technology coordinator at the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency that’s requiring doctors to start offering patients online access, and says that online access to doctors will mean fewer visits for some and more visits for others. It doesn’t matter to the DHHS. Most importantly, the government’s intent in requiring doctors to offer online access isn’t to drive the overall number of office visits up or down, but to improve the relationship between doctors and patients by improving communication.
You know what, she actually is right. The problem is that the government and insurers AREN’T PAYING for these online visits. Can you imagine being on call covering 20,000 patients (like I used to do) and not only answering pages but also emails? I can. It will suck UNLESS you do it for your own panel of cash-paying, direct care patients of less than 1000 and you know them all. You don’t mind because you are being paid on a monthly fee without the gov’t or insurers interference.
More to tell you about that, on a personal level, in about six to eight months………