Here’s a quickie round-up of some activity in the patient-physician connectivity space (boy, that word makes me miss 1999!)
The BMJ has a pretty typical academic article summarizing the good and the bad of patient physician email. The two part article basically says that it’s pretty good for asynchronous connections that don’t require the hands-on caring touch. While the article is only worth reading for the harder core among us, the iHealthbeat summary is worth a quick perusal. Meanwhile Manhattan research, also reported in iHealthbeat confirms that only 8% of American docs currently email their patients.
So yes, the level of online interaction continues to be small. But there are some wins taking place. Relayhealth’s service counts my doctor as a sort of user. I can, via Calif Blue Shield, find his “online office” and fill in my health record form, but he doesn’t seem to have any of the features switched on nor has he emailed me back. But overall the concept does appear to be making forward progess, if only painfully slowly. The Rocky Mountain News reports it’s not going so badly in a clinic in Denver that now has over 700 patients using the service. Of course they are not really using it for online consults–the killer apps of online connectivity are appointment setting and prescription refill requests. iHealthbeat has a little more on the subject, and as you can see from the steady number of deals RelayHealth is signing up, interest in the conecpt is slowly taking shape.
Meanwhile, in what’s essentially the same space (sorry!), that of EMR access by patients, Geisenger in Pennsylvania has a success to report. Like Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, which has a similar system that also appends email connectivity to a patient’s view of its EHR, Geiseneger patients can go oline to get their health information from their physicians and also email them about administrative and clinical tasks. An article in JAMIA shows that Geisenger patients found EHRs easy to use. The authors noted that:
Patients preferred email communication for some interactions (e.g., requesting prescription renewals, obtaining general medical information) while they preferred in-person communication for others (e.g., getting treatment instructions). Telephone or written communication was never their preferred communication channel. In contrast, physicians were more likely to prefer telephone communication and less likely to prefer email communication.
Something tells me that this is a slow movement of attrition that will hit a tipping point. Perhaps a modest injection of funds as part of the 10 Year Plan might help push it along? Can the VA and DOD get on board first? We’ll see.