Number of MyChart messages drops after hospitals start billing for them, study finds

MyChart messages declined at San Francisco-based UCSF Health after the health system started billing for them, though clinicians rarely charge patients for them, a JAMA study found.

UCSF Health is among the health systems that have employed a policy change that lets providers be reimbursed for the types of patient portal messages that exploded in use during the pandemic. At UCSF, patients are notified of the potential charges before they send a message.

After allowing clinicians to decide when to bill for messages, in November 2021, patient message threads and overall messages dropped slightly at UCSF Health, which the researchers said "may be attributable to awareness of the possibility of being billed." But clinicians only charged for about 2 percent of message threads.

The Jan. 6 study's authors said future research should look at overall costs under varying payment models and the effects of messaging billing on health outcomes, equity, and patient and clinician experience.

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