E-mail in Boutique Practices
Traditional health systems aren't the only ones using e-mail consultations. Choice Physicians is a concierge medicine practice that utilizes electronic messaging. Tiffany Sizemore-Ruiz, D.O., one of the co-founders of the practice, says that an e-mail consultation fee is built into the $1,500 retainer fee patients pay when they sign up.
Choice Physicians has a much smaller patient base than traditional physicians practices, so adding the service in the retainer fee is the only payment needed to finance the service.
"This is a 500−600 patient practice," said Sizemore-Ruiz. "So if you do the math, and you take the $1,500 and multiply it by 500 patients, that $750,000 a year. I don't need an extra $15−$20 to do an e-mail consultation."
Sizemore-Ruiz says she is available for her patients 24/7, and with her smaller patient base at its current size, is able to answer all the e-mails that come her way.
For a larger practice such as Group Health Cooperative, it's a team effort to keep up with patient e-mails. Increased workload was cited as an initial concern, but at GHC in Seattle, everyone has to come together to make sure all the patient inquiries are met, with the bulk falling to the primary physicians.
"A percent are answered by other members of the team, usually around a quarter to a third, and that's things like 'when did I last have my tetanus shot?' But two-thirds to three quarters are answered by their doctor," said Handley.