Medical markets in everything?

Or will they be thwarted?

To Nina McCollum, Cleveland Clinic’s decision to begin billing for some email correspondence between patients and doctors “was a slap in the face.”

She has relied on electronic communications to help care for her ailing 80-year-old mother, Penny Cooke, who is in need of specialized psychiatric treatment from the clinic. “Every 15 or 20 dollars matters, because her money is running out,” she said.

Electronic health communications and telemedicine have exploded in recent years, fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and relaxed federal rules on billing for these types of care. In turn, a growing number of health care organizations, including some of the nation’s major hospital systems like Cleveland Clinic, doctors’ practices and other groups, have begun charging fees for some responses to more time-intensive patient queries via secure electronic portals like MyChart.

…a new study shows that the fees, which some institutions say range from a co-payment of as little as $3 to a charge of $35 to $100, may be discouraging at least a small percentage of patients from getting medical advice via email. Some doctors say they are caught in the middle of the debate over the fees, and others raised concerns about the effects that the charges might have on health equity and access to care.

Demand curves do slope downward.  And yet:

But a recent study led by Dr. Holmgren of data from Epic, a dominant electronic health records company, showed that the rate of patient emails to providers had increased by more than 50 percent in the last three years.

Perhaps there is a smidgen of room for AI here?  But not under the current legal regime, I suspect.  Here is the full Benjamin Ryan NYT article.


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