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Results of a study conducted at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley show that online communication between doctors and patients can increase patient satisfaction and reduce healthcare costs.
Results of a study conducted at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley show that online communication between doctors and patients can increase patient satisfaction and reduce healthcare costs. The study evaluated the impact of Emeryville, CA-based RelayHealth Corp.'s online communication service on satisfaction among patients and physicians, and on the cost of care, including costs incurred by payers who reimburse doctors for secure, structured doctor-patient consultations over the Internet.
The online service studied consists of a secure Web-based communication system that is built around medical office work flow and connects doctors, patients and pharmacies.
Analysis of healthcare claims data for 2,274 study patients - compared with claims for 3,390 patients in a matched control group - revealed statistically significant reductions in the total cost of healthcare. Patients in the Web treatment group generated cost savings in excess of $1 per patient per month when compared with matched control patients.
In addition, a substantial majority of patients rated the service favorably compared with a phone call or office visit, both in terms of convenience and quality. Over two-thirds of these patients reported an improvement in access to their own physician, as well as a significant decline in the likelihood of missing work for minor medical issues.
The study also found that most physicians were satisfied with the online encounters.
"The survey results showed strong satisfaction among the physicians who used the service," said Laurence Baker, associate professor of health research and policy and chief of health services research at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "Most of the physicians surveyed found the service satisfying, easy to use, easy to integrate into their practices, and preferred it over office visits for non-urgent patient needs."
Some study participants said they hope the Web-based service will replace office visits for non-emergency needs.
"A Web-based communication system addresses significant challenges that the medical community has faced for years," said Eric Liederman, medical director for clinical information systems at UC Davis Health System, whose organization participated in the study. "A system has added value when it allows doctors to get compensated for their time and expertise when providing medical advice to their patients online. We have doctors who were at first skeptical about this new mode of communication, but now would never go back to the old way of doing things." PR