There are benefits to online consultations that may make them worthwhile even without payer approval. E-mailing patients can save time on minor cases, improve patient throughput, and allow physicians to focus on more complex, and often higher-reimbursing, cases. For some, this could lead to higher revenue even without payment specifically for online work.
And as competition heats up from retail clinics, concierge physicians, and other patient-centered providers, practices that don't offer online access may lose patients.
But physicians' time is a valuable commodity in today's healthcare marketplace. Physicians often receive payment for nonclinical activities such as administrative duties, so they may want credit for productivity associated with e-mailing patients, regardless of payer support.
Conceivably, a practice could compensate physicians for e-mailing patients by assigning productivity to those activities or grouping them with other administrative duties, says Peg L. Stone, CMPE, principal at PLS Professional Associates, LLC, a Cumming, GA-based firm that specializes in developing and evaluating physician compensation plans.. Alternatively, it could classify that time as a necessary marketing expense to promote the practice.
"The money will come from various sources, and it's probably less likely to come from the insurer than anywhere else," she says.