Patient-doctor email cuts into practice income

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Patients who consult with their physicians via email are less likely to visit their physician and less likely to call their doctor's office, according to data from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.

Kaiser found a decline of between 7 and 10 percent in primary care office visits for patients who email their physicians and a 14 percent decrease in patient phone calls to doctors' offices. Kaiser Northwest several years ago began using email as part of a pilot project, and currently, 113,000 Kaiser members in Oregon and Washington state use the internet and email services as part of their health plan.

Fewer office visits could help employers and insurers save money but could be financially problematic for practices that depend on visits for revenue.