|The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor
Posted on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 - 10:55 am
Health IT, the conventional wisdom goes, will lower healthcare costs in part by enabling patients to get access to their providers without actually going in to see them.
But a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests otherwise. Unfortunately, the full report is available only to JAMA subscribers, but the abstract provides the salient details.
First, this study followed earlier ones which suggested “that providing patients with online access to health records and e-mail communication with physicians may substitute for traditional health care services.” To test that premise, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of the use of health care services by members who were continuously enrolled for at least 24 months during the study period March 2005 through June 2010 in Kaiser Permanente Colorado, a group model, integrated health care delivery system.”
Providing some background, this observer notes that “Kaiser Permanente Colorado added “MyHealthManager” (MHM) to their EHR in May 2006. MHM allows patients to view tests, records, problem lists as well as care plans, schedule appointments, request refills and message their doctors. By June of 2009, over 375,000 Kaiser patients had signed up for MHM. Of those, about 45% had used the system at least once. Of this number, Kaiser researchers pulled the records of 44,321 persons who had been continuously enrolled in the Kaiser system for at least two years.”
In the study, “this group was retrospectively matched to a control group of Kaiser patients who had not signed up for MHM.”
The results? Among those who used the portal, there was an increase in office visits, phone calls and after-hours clinic visits, among other things, when compared to those patients who didn’t use the portal.
As we’ve said when reporting “good news” studies, one study does not a conclusion make. But there is a certain logic to the results. After all, patients who are more plugged in may also be more inclined to act on their better information, which means they’ll be more inclined to make more, rather than less, use of the healthcare system.
At the very least, the results merit further consideration by policymakers, and similar studies should be conducted elsewhere.