For patients with multiple chronic conditions, the ability to quickly (and securely) talk to their care providers is a near invaluable resource- as a recent report from Kaiser Permanente clearly demonstrated.
The report, released earlier this month, surveyed 1,000 patients with chronic conditions, and found that approximately 93% of respondents used email for contacting their primary care physician, while 34% did so to touch base with specialists.
Further, almost half of the respondents used email to contact their providers about test results, while 40% were looking for information on new medications. Almost three-quarters of providers responded to these requests within 24 hours, showing that most patient questions were answered within a ‘reasonable’ time frame.
Perhaps the most important statistic was this: One-third of patients surveyed said this increased email coordination reduced visits to the office and the need for further phone contact.
So what does it mean? Patients are eager to take a role in their own care, and email allows them to do so in an organized, timely fashion. This is especially important for patients with multiple chronic conditions, as staying on top of their various medications, co-morbid symptoms, and doctor instructions means many questions- all of which they would rather ask via email than wait in a crowded doctors office, or in a worst case scenario, the emergency department.
The researchers concluded:
“Our study finding of high rates of use of electronic messaging as the first method of contact for a range of health-related questions will likely become increasingly widespread as more patients and clinicians gain access to, and begin using, these tools regularly.”
The good news is that Medicare is already ahead of the game with its Chronic Care Management Program (CCM), which reimburses providers for completing month telehealth calls that cover nearly all of the requests patients made in the Kaiser Permanente survey.
Rather than just an email, CCM allows for a medical professional to remotely take patients step-by-step through any questions they may have, whether it’s related to medication, treatment instructions, etc.- with this information then entered into the patient’s electronic medical file.
We at Wellbox recognize that patients want increased communication with their doctors, which is why we are working every day to help providers participate in CCM, and ultimately create a new care continuum that comprehensively treats patients in the doctor’s office, at home, and everywhere in between.