But the folks at Kaiser still don’t understand it. The results:
When Ted Palen, a Kaiser Permanente researcher, started investigating what happens when doctors begin e-mailing with patients, he thought he would see the practice lighten workloads. Patients would get their questions answered remotely, with no need to turn up in person.
Palen just finished a five-year retrospective study of what happened when Kaiser Permanente in Colorado began allowing e-mail access to doctors in 2006. The outcome, as Palen notes in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association, was “contrary to our expectations”: Online access to doctors was associated with more doctor visits, not fewer.
That initial spike did taper off with in a few months. Even a year later, however, those who utilized the online access to doctors still had higher rates of doctor visits per month.
As an HMO, Kaiser rations by waiting. When you lower the time price of care, the demand increases. DUH.