Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning (NYT)

A NYT article today talks about a telemedecine phenomenon that might be heralding a digital set of interactions which replace older in-person interactions -- much like ATMs and bank tellers:

Doctors may no longer make house calls, but they are answering patient e-mail messages - and being paid for it.

In a move to improve efficiency and control costs, health plans and medical groups around the country are now beginning to pay doctors to reply by e-mail, just as they pay for office visits. While some computer-literate doctors have been using e-mail to communicate informally with patients for years, most have never been paid for that service.

Brian Settlemoir, 39, an accountant in Folsom, Calif., recently sent an e-mail message to his doctor at the Creekside Medical Group to ask if it was time to reduce the dosage of a medicine after his cholesterol level dropped. The prompt answer was "not yet."

"I'm sitting at work," Mr. Settlemoir said. "I've got e-mail open anyway. It's much easier than calling and getting voice-mail prompts and sitting on hold. It's very valuable to me."

Blue Shield of California pays his doctor $25 for each online exchange, the same as it pays for an office visit. Some insurers pay a bit less for e-mailing, and patients in some health plans are charged a $5 or $10 co-payment that is billed to their credit card and relayed to the doctor.

Full article: The New York Times > Technology > Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning

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