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RelayHealth Case Study: Improving Patient Communication with Online Care Management

 


Editor's Note: Mark Charman, M.D., of Affinity Healthcare has the distinctive honor of being one of RelayHealth’s very first users of physician-patient online communication. Since 2000, approximately 785 patients have enrolled to interact with Dr. Charman electronically.



Game Changer: Direct Link to Patients

Each week Dr. Charman’s office receives an average of 20 e-communications from patients requesting appointments and prescription refills, or asking for advice on blood pressure, hypertension or diabetes treatment, or the latest test results.

“The vast majority are clinical messages,” he says. “RelayHealth is an efficient means of communication and the number one reason why I use the online service. I communicate when I want and how much I want with patients.”

During Dr. Charman’s eight years using RelayHealth, he can attest that online connectivity has significantly cut down time-consuming telephone calls, which bite into office productivity.

“There is a time delay based on how busy we are answering incoming calls, and RelayHealth helps us react more quickly to take the appropriate action addressing patients’ needs,” he notes. “I’m still working as hard as ever and I review all the messages myself, but RelayHealth saves me time from playing telephone tag. It definitely saves my staff time, who also benefit from the reduction in patient office communications.”

The Patient Perspective

RelayHealth’s webVisit online consultations are especially popular with patients. In 2007, 342 patients initiated the clinically structured online interviews, averaging 6.5 online consultations per week. “We offer the webVisit as an added value service to our patients, and we encourage them to use them and offer recommendations on how maximize their benefit using it,” Dr. Charman explains.

RelayHealth’s webVisit formalized questionnaire template, created by clinicians for handling online clinical questions, enables patients to communicate “relatively quick, simple” medical problems such as upper respiratory and urinary tract infections, lower back pain, and the occasion minor injury. Many patients living with chronic care conditions also are big fans of the webVisit. In their desire to interact more closely with Dr. Charman, they oftentimes seek self care education related to their specific condition.

Recalling his two-way dialogue with a patient visiting China, Dr. Charman believes the ability to render care globally through the Internet contributes to patient satisfaction.

“The real question is how does online communication benefit the doctor-patient relationship? Without question, patients love communicating with their doctor online. It adds value to the practice in terms of patient satisfaction. I hear that time and time again,” he notes.

Dr. Charman is one of three physicians in his primary care practice who use RelayHealth. He wants to put to rest an industry-wide perception inhibiting his peers from adopting online connectivity.

“Doctors are tough people, very independent thinkers. It’s time we active users get the word out that patients do not abuse online communication. It’s not as though I get 30 messages a day, though you do have your frequent flyers. But people in general do not abuse the privilege on communicating with their doctor over the Internet.”

Upcoming conferences

Previous conferences

  • Delivering on the Value Proposition for Connectivity and Health IT – April 23, 2009

This conference focused on connectivity and industry strategies for health information technology in response to related provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Discussions helped raise the awareness and the need for a clinical informatics management program. Participants included informaticists, healthcare providers, vendors, payers, policymakers, and educators. Among the companies represented were IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, McKesson, Perot Systems, and Siemens Medical Solutions.

  • Medical Innovation and Strategies Conference, Wireless and Consumer Healthcare – September 23, 2009

This meeting focused on identifying and discussing fundamental drivers of connectivity in healthcare IT and ways the Fuqua community can participate in the development and implementation of wireless and consumer healthcare. Participants included healthcare providers, members of the medical device industry, innovators in wireless healthcare, and venture/investment professionals and students of Fuqua’s Health Sector Management program. Among the companies represented were IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, Microsoft Corporation, General Electric/NBC Universal, and Medtronic.

For more information, please contact:

Ana Quinn
Associate Director, Business Development
Health Sector Management
Phone: 919‐660‐7900
ana.quinn@duke.edu