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Vol. 9 No. 25, December 5, 2012

Fact and Stats

Patients with online access to their medical records and secure e-mail communication with clinicians had increased use of clinical services, including office visits and telephone encounters, compared to patients who did not have online access, according to a study appearing in the November 21 issue of JAMA.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver compared 44,321 health plan members who had access to their medical records and could email their doctors to an equal number who didn't use the online system. The patients in each group were matched for age, gender, race and chronic diseases.

The researchers found patient visits and calls tended to go up in the year after people started using the electronic records. But for those in the no-access group, measures of healthcare use typically declined or stayed constant compared to the year before.

Online users went to the doctor's office an average 0.7 extra times each over the year and called an extra 0.3 times each, versus non-users. Their rate of after-hours clinic visits, ER trips and hospitalizations also rose in comparison - by an extra 11 to 20 visits and stays for every 1,000 patients each year.

Dr. Ted Palen from the Institute for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Colorado and his colleagues calculated that if the same findings applied to a small group practice, a doctor with 1,000 patients who started using online records would have close to 10 extra clinic visits every week.

The researchers said there are a few possible explanations for the "surprising" findings. It's possible that online access allowed people to identify more health concerns, for example, or that the type of patients who sign up for online access are also the ones who are more likely to use in-person health services.

Read more

Source: Association of Online Patient Access to Clinicians and Medical Records With Use of Clinical Services

Date: November 21, 2012

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