Patients who consult with their physicians via e-mail are less likely to visit their physician and less likely to call their doctor's office, according to data from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, the Portland Business Journal reports.
Kaiser found a decline of between 7% and 10% in primary care office visits for patients who e-mail their physicians and a 14% decrease in patient phone calls to doctors' offices.
The reduced number of office visits could help save money for employers and insurers, although it also could be financially harmful for medical practices that rely on patient visits for income from insurance reimbursements, the Journal reports.
Kaiser Northwest several years ago began using e-mail as part of a pilot project, and currently, 113,000 Kaiser members in Oregon and Washington state use the Internet and e-mail services as part of their health plan.
Patients are becoming increasingly interested in secure e-mail services, and they might pressure clinics to invest in the systems or develop a new business model to pay for the systems, according to the Journal (Moody, Portland Business Journal, 6/29).