FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
program lets patients, docs chat
Physicians can write electronic prescriptions
Courier Staff Reporter
Some Tri-State patients will soon be able to chat with their doctors
through secure e-mail platforms under a new pilot program.
Greater Cincinnati Associated Physicians and Catholic Health Care
Partners -- parent company of Mercy Health Partners -- inked a deal
with RelayHealth Corp., which provides online health care communication
The move will improve patient access to doctors, said Pamela Zipperer-Davis,
CEO of the 37-physician GCAP. "If you are a patient of ours
and want to talk to your doctor or get lab results by e-mail, you
can do that," Zipperer-Davis said. "For doctors, this
allows us the opportunity to move to a more efficient way of handling
the voluminous amount of calls and paperwork we get."
GCAP will pilot the service for a year with Humana and UnitedHealthcare
patients from four of its offices.
RelayHealth, based in Emeryville, Calif., offers Web-based services
that connect patients, physicians, insurers and pharmacies. Patients
can consult with doctors on nonurgent health concerns through a
"webVisit." Physicians can write electronic prescriptions
and send them to nearly any pharmacy in the country. Patients can
receive lab test results, schedule or cancel appointments and request
Patients also can create an online health record and access reviewed
medical articles through their personal RelayHealth Web page. For
physicians, RelayHealth offers additional software to speed workflow
in the office.
Eric Zimmerman, a RelayHealth senior vice president, said the service
also can save time and money. "If a doctor's office is normally
in the habit of calling patients with lab results or stuffing envelopes,
here is an efficient way to get results out," Zimmerman said.
"The service can also reduce the telephone tag of scheduling,
and webVisits can free up a doctor's schedule for patients with
more acute needs."
The RelayHealth service costs $50 per doctor in a single group.
Larger physician groups receive a discounted rate. Zimmerman said
RelayHealth now has contracts with 15 physician groups and counts
5,000 doctors in its network. RelayHealth also allows physicians
to get reimbursed for consultations they provide through the Web-based
service, Zimmerman said.
The company recently signed a contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield
in Massachusetts and is in negotiations with Cincinnati health insurers.
Zipperer-Davis said she is hopeful that Humana and UnitedHealthcare
will agree to reimburse GCAP physicians for the Web-based consultations
after seeing the pilot project's results.
The RelayHealth contract is a natural extension of what HealthBridge
-- Cincinnati's health information network -- is trying to accomplish,
said Robert Steffel, executive director. "Our niche is getting
the data in a discreet, standard format from hospitals to doctors,"
Steffel said. "The next issue is how often is it appropriate
to take that data from the doctor and get it to the patient?"
The new service will greatly benefit patients with chronic conditions
who manage their health at home, Steffel said. For those patients,
being able to get their data and track it really helps.
An independent study of RelayHealth's usage, completed by the University
of California at Berkeley and Stanford University, found that patients
had quicker access to their doctors and fewer health care costs.
Conducted from June 2000 to May 2002, the study reviewed claims
data for 5,727 patients.
Patients who used the RelayHealth study were 50 percent less likely
to report missing work because of illness, 45 percent less likely
to have visited the doctor and 36 percent less likely to have telephoned
the doctor's office.
Rebecca Sykes, chief information officer with CHP, said RelayHealth's
services go beyond basic e-mail. "For many routine, nonurgent
matters, time can be saved and satisfaction increased through online
communication," Sykes said.
CHP hopes to use the service with additional physicians once a trial
period with GCAP is completed.
© 2003 American City Business Journals Inc.