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.