IT’S CONSUMER DEMAND which motivated Intel Corporation and iMcKesson LLC to fund a study of how state-of-the-art email connectivity benefits physicians and their patients.
The study, announced on October 11, will be conducted at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) in Ann Arbor Michigan. Led by two internists, Steven J. Katz, M.D., M.P.H. and David T. Stern, M.D., Ph.D., the goal will be to measure and evaluate how electronic patient communications (read: “email”) affect “practice efficiency, accuracy, and satisfaction of both physicians and patients.”
UMHS physicians will use iMcKesson’s “ePPi,” an electronic provider-patient interface, to communicate with their patients. More than 120 physicians and their 35,000 patients will participate in what is described as “the first randomized, controlled study” of this type.
Huge, Unserved Demand
This research project follows on the heels of an earlier Intel-funded study by physicians at UMHS done in 1999. Researchers were surprised to learn that there was a huge, but unserved, demand by patients to communicate with their doctors using email. Intel officials said “the vast majority of patients were willing to use email to contact their doctors, but few physicians were actually communicating that way with patients.”
The new study will begin in 2001 and will take three years. The study will examine how iMcKesson’s ePPi technology impacts the volume of patient telephone calls and visits as well as the “efficiency in timing of communication between patients, physicians, and their staffs.”
Personal Patient Web Pages
iMcKesson’s ePPi product is designed to avoid the privacy issues related to standard email. It establishes patient Web pages where information is updated. Patients are then notified to check their personal Web page to access any updated information. iMcKesson says that ePPi is now used by 37 practices across the country, involving 500 physicians and 33,000 registered patients.
Lab executives and pathologists should take careful note of the findings from the first study funded by Intel: increasing numbers of their patients want to communicate with doctors (and laboratories) using the Web, but few doctors (and laboratories) are responding to that demand.
Further, the willingness of Intel to fund this second-stage study with a prestigious academic health center demonstrates how corporations outside healthcare are committing to spend significant amounts of money to transform the way physicians, providers, patients, and payers communicate and send information.
For hospital labs and independent labs seeking competitive advantage, it is clear that improved Web access to lab testing services and information is a big winner among a growing number of patients, as well as physicians.