Laura Roberts is serious about her health. She tries to eat right and exercise. Now she also can access her health records and communicate with her physician online.
She says, "it's helping me incorporate my doctor's opinion in health choices that i would be making ordinarily by myself." Right now Laura wants her doctor's opinion about whether or not she should take a daily multivitamin.
Researchers measured the number of office visits, phone calls , after hours clinical and emergency visits and hospital stays of 44,000 patients with online access to their doctor. Then they compared that data to that of similar patients who didn't use the online option.
Study author, Dr. Ted Palen of Kaiser Permante says, "members with online access actually used more of these in-person clinical services, their use of telephone contacts with the health care system went up 8 percent, their use of office visits went up 16 percent between the rate that they had before they signed up with my health manager."
After hours, ER visits and hospital stays also increased. Laura says using the computer to keep connected with her health care needs and her physician is a win-win.
Researchers say further studies are needed to determine the cost and benefits of online access to health care.
Meantime, Geisinger Health System which has been offering online access for years says the service helps doctors identify patients at risk for chronic illnesses and begin treatment early on while the conditions are most treatable.