February 22, 2024

Kacie Lewis, 29, is one of those who manage their health electronically. Until recently, her Aetna policy had a high deductible due to her job as a product manager at a healthcare company.She said she has been charged $32 each for three email threads seeking providers from Novant Health in Charlotte, N.C., for psoriasis, eczema and yeast infections since late 2021 Treatment

“Time is money,” Ms Lewis said. “And being able to submit something super simple and communicate with your doctor via email is so much better than driving 20 minutes one way, 20 minutes the other way and possibly sitting in a waiting room.”

in a Paper published in JAMA on January 6, Dr. Holmgren and his colleagues reported that after UCSF Health began email billing in November 2021, the number of emails patients sent to providers dropped slightly. This may be the result of patients’ reluctance to pay, the researchers said.

According to the study, in the first year, UCSF was billed for 13,000 message threads, or about 1.5 percent of the 900,000 threads and more than 3 million messages. (Other hospitals told The Times that they charged no more than 2 percent of the thread.) Each bill was about $20 from Medicare and Medicaid, $75 from commercial insurers, $470,000 in email charges, That compares with $5.6 billion in revenue for the system in 2021.

“This is expected to remain income neutral,” Dr. Holmgren said. “We don’t intend for this to be a profitable business.”

Critics argue that charging for a small fraction of emails is unlikely to significantly reduce physician burnout unless hospitals also reserve work time for patient inquiries and reward clinicians for these efforts. UCSF has begun offering “productivity points,” a metric used for compensation, for physician communications.

Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Association, said he supports insuring email as a way of adapting the healthcare model to changing times.

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