Boots & Sabers

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0851, 19 Aug 17

Emails Increase Doctor Visits


Emails between patients and doctors lead to more office visits and don’t improve health, contrary to the intent of the increasingly popular exchanges, according to a UW-Madison study.

A likely reason for the additional office visits: Patient conditions are too complex to explain by email and doctors want to avoid liability, so they often bring in patients who email — even for minor problems for which patients would not have sought an office visit.

“These emails basically work as a trigger because they’re not as comprehensive as a face-to-face interaction,” said Hessam Bavafa, an assistant professor of operations and information management at UW-Madison’s Wisconsin School of Business.

The findings, published in the journal Management Science, could lead health care organizations to rethink or improve “e-visits,” which have become widely available in recent years, including in Madison.

I suspect that the humanitarian fear of getting a diagnosis and treatment wrong, coupled with the fear of legal liability, is primarily driving this behavior. In the age of FaceTime and similar technologies, it seems that a quick, live video conversation would reduce the inconvenience and cost for everyone.


0851, 19 August 2017


  1. billphoto

    Having a recent stressful problem, my blood pressure went up.  Doctor asked me to keep track of my blood pressure at home and email him periodic updates.  What he forgot to mention was he charged for an office visit to acknowledge my email.  Trying to dispute the charges did not help.

  2. Owen

    That sounds like a billing system that hasn’t caught up with changing technology.

  3. billphoto

    I wish.  Doctor said he had to work (look at the BP chart I sent) and so that counted as an office visit BECAUSE IF I had come to his office with the data he would have had to look at the BP chart.

    Just another way to inflate healthcare costs.

  4. Jason

    Sounds like a bit of shit to me. Is this Dr. implying that a large part of the billing overhead is not the physical office, the specialized equipment at said physical office, the staff at said physical office, or the time spent Jr the RN to take your vitals and review your medications? Time to shop around for a doctor with clearer billing practices…. Oh wait, we can’t have that.

  5. Jason

    That should say “time spent by the RN to take your vitals”…

  6. billphoto

    I can understand billing for the doctor’s time.  I do think charging the same fee as an office visit is overcharging but I have no idea if there is a different billing code.  These bureaucratic robots administering our healthcare cannot function without codes.

    At least we have not gotten to the single payer system in our Country.  If we did, then we would all have VA healthcare.  Personally, I think our veterans deserve better.

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