Kacie Lewis, 29, is amongst those that handle their well being considerations electronically. Till lately, her Aetna insurance coverage protection had a excessive deductible, by way of her work as a product supervisor at a well being care firm. And since late 2021, she mentioned, she had been billed $32 for every of three electronic mail threads, in search of therapies for psoriasis, eczema and a yeast an infection from suppliers at Novant Well being in Charlotte, N.C.
“Time is cash,” Ms. Lewis mentioned. “And to have the ability to submit one thing tremendous easy and talk along with your physician over electronic mail is significantly better than driving 20 minutes a method, 20 minutes again the opposite approach and doubtlessly sitting within the ready room.”
In a paper printed on Jan. 6 in JAMA, Dr. Holmgren and his colleagues reported that after U.C.S.F. Well being began its electronic mail billing in November 2021, there was a slight drop within the variety of affected person emails to suppliers. The researchers steered which may have been the results of sufferers’ reluctance to be charged a price.
Within the first yr, U.C.S.F. billed for 13,000 message threads, or about 1.5 p.c of 900,000 threads and greater than three million messages, in accordance with the research. (Different hospitals instructed The Instances they billed for no better than 2 p.c of threads.) From about $20 from Medicare and Medicaid and $75 from business insurers per invoice, the e-mail charges generated $470,000, in contrast with the system’s $5.6 billion in 2021 revenues.
“This can hopefully be revenue-neutral,” Dr. Holmgren mentioned. “We’re not aspiring to make this a worthwhile enterprise.”
Critics argue that billing for a small fraction of emails just isn’t more likely to cut back doctor burnout considerably until hospitals additionally put aside workday hours for affected person queries and reward clinicians for these efforts. U.C.S.F. has begun giving “productiveness factors,” a metric used for compensation, for docs’ correspondence.
Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Affiliation, mentioned he supported insurance coverage protection for emailing as a strategy to regulate well being care fashions to fast-changing instances.