Blog | Monday, March 28, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Patients want to talk to doctors but pay bills online


Patients may not want to discuss clinical matters via social media, but they'd gladly set pay their bills when reminded. Social media's value in communicating with patients is limited to the administrative aspects of it.

Americans still want traditional ways of communication when they need a clinical consult. A survey finds 84% would not use social media or instant messaging channels for medical communication if their doctors offered it, according to the communications firm Capstrat.

Respondents were more favorable toward conferring with the doctor via e-mail (52%) than they were by Twitter and Facebook (11%), chat or instant messaging (20%) or a private online forum (31%).

Even among those 18 to 29 years old, 21% said they would take advantage of an online forum if their doctor offered it, while 72% would take advantage of a nurse help line if available.

Respondents said they'd take advantage of online appointment scheduling (52%), online access to medical records (50%), or online bill payment (48%).

"It appears consumers are willing to move administrative experiences such as bill payment and records access online, but when it comes to conferring with their health care providers, people still prefer more traditional communications," said the firm's president, Karen Albritton, in a press release. "The implications include a way for doctors to free up more time for their patients by moving the right interactions online, and an opportunity to forge stronger connections through personal interaction."

Patients want the same convenience of online appointments and bill paying from their doctor that they get in other areas of their lives, reports a second survey.

73% of those surveyed would use a secure online option to get lab results, request appointments and pay medical bills. The first caveat is that this survey was done by Intuit. The company is best known for QuickBooks, but its health care division offers patient portals for doctor's offices. The second caveat is that respondents were surveyed online, which would skew results to people digitally inclined anyway.

With those two caveats in mind, the survey also found that:
--Almost half would consider switching doctors for a practice that offered online access.
--81% would schedule their own appointment via a secure Web service and fill out medical/registration forms online prior to their appointment.
--78% would use a secure online method to access their medical histories and share information with their doctor.
--59% of generation Y respondents said they would switch doctors for one with better online access, compared to only 29% of baby boomers.
--45% of patients wait more than a month to pay their doctor bill, and when they pay, half still send a paper check in the mail.