San Francisco-Based Company Launches Online Service for Physicians to Consult with Patients Over E-mail
San Francisco-based Medem Inc., a company that develops Web sites for physicians, launched a service today that allows doctors to offer online consultations and bill patients for the interaction, the Wall Street Journal reports. The service allows patients to ask detailed clinical questions and receive answers via secure online messaging. Physicians will decide to whom they will offer the service and how much to charge. The new service is designed to address many of physicians' concerns about online consultations, including liability, workload and reimbursement. Physicians can set a time frame for responding to patients' messages, and they can have nurses or other colleagues screen messages before they receive them. Physicians can also decide what price to charge for a consultation. Most patients will have to pay out-of-pocket using a credit card for the time being; Medem hopes that insurers eventually will cover the consultations. Most physicians have set the price of an online consultation at between $20 and $30, according to the Journal. Physicians pay Medem $2.50 for each online consultation charged to a patient. The service meets the eRisk liability guidelines for online medicine, which have been endorsed by 33 malpractice insurers, the American Medical Association and other medical societies. The new offering is an expansion of Medem's existing "secure messaging" service, which allows patients to request appointments and prescription refills free of charge. Both the existing messaging service and the new consultation service support communication between physicians and existing patients, as opposed to new patients seeking medical advice or prescriptions without an existing relationship and prior physical examination (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 6/17). For more iHealth & Technology stories, visit iHealthBeat.org, a new Web publication sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.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.