UnityPoint Health to begin charging patients for questions sent through portal

Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health will begin charging patients for some messages sent through its MyUnityPoint messaging system, WKOW reported Feb. 14. 

Starting Feb. 14, UnityPoint will bill patients' insurance providers for messages that require "a provider's clinical time and medical expertise." 

A UnityPoint spokesperson told the news outlet that coverage of messages will depend on a patient's insurance policy, although patients without insurance coverage or a high deductible will see costs ranging from $36 to $70. 

Some of the types of messages that may be billed to insurance include changes to a patient's medication, new prescriptions, changes to or check-ups on a long-term condition and messages about new symptoms the patient has not discussed with their provider in the past seven days. 

Unity also said messages that "require extensive provider time to review a patient's medical history" could also be billed for. 

Messages inquiring about scheduling an appointment, prescription refill, questions about an issue the patient saw their physician for within the last seven days and messages giving a "quick update" about a patient's health will not incur a charge, according to Unity. 

Unity said it is beginning to charge for messages as it has seen an increase in the number of messages sent through its MyUnityPoint messaging platform. According to the spokesperson, those message volumes have more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has required "significant additional time from our clinical teams."

The move comes as a growing number of health systems are starting to charge patients for asking for their physicians' advice through online patient portals, such as MyChart.

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