By Katie Wike, contributing writer
Patients who are responsible for out-of-pocket medical costs are more likely to choose to email their physician rather than spend money on an office visit.
According to a survey and study conducted by Kaiser Permanente, the University of Tennessee, and Massachusetts General Hospital, patients who are financially responsible for out-of-pocket cost associated with their healthcare are more likely to choose to consult with their doctor via email rather than pay for an office visit.
“Secure electronic messages offer patients and physicians an additional channel for communication and may serve as a unique mechanism for healthcare delivery,” says the study, published in the American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC). “Although recent estimates show that most physicians in the United States are not yet regularly communicating with their patients electronically, most patients indicate an interest in communicating directly with their healthcare providers online.”
Health IT Analytics reports the survey found 46 percent of patients who sent their providers an email said online patient engagement tools were their first choice for contacting their doctor when they had medical concerns. Additionally, more than a third of patients who communicated with their providers by email said using it reduced their phone contacts or in-person office visits. Another third said keeping in touch with their providers through email helped to noticeably improve their health.
Interestingly, patients who had to pay $60 or more for an office visit were more than 20 percent more likely to choose email communication with a provider as their first choice than patients whose financial burden for appointments was less. “Future studies should continue to examine the impact of patient-provider e-mail use on healthcare-seeking behavior, clinical care delivery workflow, and patient outcomes,” said researchers.