Online Patient-Physician Communication Could Reduce Costs, Improve Satisfaction, Study Finds
Online patient-physician consultations can reduce costs, save time and improve patient and physician satisfaction, according to a preliminary report from RelayHealth, the Wall Street Journal reports (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 10/24). The report was based on interviews with 89 physicians and 367 patients who used RelayHealth's -- formerly Healinx -- Web-based communication system, called webVisit, and analysis of claims data from June 2000 to February 2002. The study compared claims and satisfaction reports for members of participating health plans in Connecticut and Northern California to gauge the online communication system's impact. According to the report, monthly spending on physician office visits declined nearly $2 per patient for health plans that reimbursed for online consultations using the system. Health plans spent approximately 33 cents per member per month to provide the service to members. The study also found that 78% of participants considered the system convenient compared to a phone call to their physician. About 66% of patients rated their online physician encounter as "good" or "excellent." Among physicians who receive more than 30 phone messages daily, 86% said they would recommend the service to a colleague, and 93% said they would continue to use webVisit after the pilot project, compared with 63% and 72%, respectively, for physicians who receive fewer messages. As part of the project, employers such as Adobe Systems, Oracle and Stanford University purchased health coverage that would reimburse for online patient-physician consultations for some employees. Blue Shield of California and ConnectiCare reimbursed providers for RelayHealth consultations. A final report of findings from the pilot project will be released later, company officials said (RelayHealth webVisit Study: Preliminary Report, 10/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.