A growing number of health systems have begun to bill for certain electronic communications with patients via portals like MyChart. The systems instituting these practices, including Cleveland Clinic and Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine, have justified the billing based on the time demands placed on their providers to answer messages involving additional efforts, including extensive patient chart review. Northwestern shared that fewer than one percent of MyChart messages incurred fees, which are typically covered by insurance, and require patient consent before billing.
The Gist: In a time of significant margin pressure, we understand the instinct to seek additional revenue by collecting whatever reimbursement is available. However, in the ongoing transition to technology-enabled hybrid care, this practice has the potential to confuse, or even drive away, patients, who finally began to embrace virtual provider communication during the pandemic.
Viewing portal messaging as a “digital front door” for patients, rather than a revenue-generating service in and of itself, may prove more fruitful in the long run.