E-visits may increase in-office appointments, study finds

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Secure messaging between patients and providers — also called "e-visits" — lead to a 6 percent increase in office visits, according to a study published in SSRN.

The study — led by University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business' Hessam Bavafa, PhD, in collaboration with Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania's Lorin M. Hitt, PhD, and Christian Terwiesch, PhD — analyzed a panel dataset of over 140,000 patients spanning 2008 to 2013 from large health systems in the U.S.

The study revealed providers who offered e-visits experienced a 6 percent increase in office visits, accounting for an additional 45 minutes each month. This increased time spent on office visits reduced the number of new patients seen each month by 15 percent.

The researchers also noted there was no observable improvement in patient health between those who used e-visits and those who did not.

"Offering e-visits seems like a great way to save time and money by reducing the need for office visits because routine questions or updates could be done via email," Dr. Bavafa said. "The problem is that healthcare is much more complicated — patients may overreact to minor symptoms or not be clear enough in describing their situation and that leads to doctors feeling obligated to schedule an office visit."

Click here to read the full paper, which will be published in Management Science.

More articles on telehealth:

CMS taps TripleCare to study telemedicine at skilled nursing facilities

Employer telehealth adoption to reach 96%, survey finds

American Telemedicine Association CEO to step down after 24 years

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