More health systems bill for MyChart

More health systems are billing for MyChart messages, even as the claims volume for those digital encounters has ebbed and flowed, according to a Jan. 10 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The number of healthcare organizations that charge for patient portal messages has steadily increased since mid-2021, while claims for so-called "e-visits" peaked in April 2020 at 202,272 before dropping to a low of 64,341 in June 2021 and rising again to 107,442 to September 2022, the end of the study period. CPT codes allow providers to bill for messages that take up at least five minutes of their time within seven days.

The findings suggest "health system interest in e-visit billing has evolved from a short-term pandemic necessity to a long-term source of revenue," the study's authors wrote. They are affiliated with University of California at San Francisco, data company Trilliant Health and Boston-based Harvard Medical School.

Despite the explosion in patient portal messages in recent years, health systems are split on whether billing for them relieves providers' digital burden or just adds to it. Becker's has reported on nearly two dozen health systems that charge for the online encounters, including some of the largest and most prestigious in the U.S. One study found that the number of messages dropped after a health system started billing for them.

The authors say more research is needed to determine whether charging for the messages improves patient care, reduces costs and can substitute for live visits, and why organizations stop billing for them.

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