Patients Look to Net to Help with Medical Care

A majority of the online population (57 percent) think it is somewhat likely that the Internet will help reduce or eliminate frustrations associated with visits to their doctors, according to a survey by Harris Interactive for ARiA Marketing and iMcKesson.

The research also found that 81 percent of the online population would like to receive email reminders for preventive care, 83 percent would like follow-up emails after visits to doctors, 84 percent would like for for their doctors to be able to access and monitor their lab tests online).

The research was conducted in two phases, the first of which was conducted online in September with 1,000 healthcare consumers, aged 18 and over. The second phase was an online focus group of patients and physicians.

Online healthcare consumers have had many frustrating experiences before, during, or after visits to their physicians. The most widely remembered are: “forgetting to ask all my questions when I’m with my doctor” (60 percent); “having to see my doctor in person to ask questions that he or she could answer by telephone or email” (41 percent); “getting through to someone who could answer my questions” (35 percent); “providing the same information over and over again each time I go to the doctor’s office” (35 percent; “finding a new doctor” (30 percent); and “not having enough time with my doctor” (29 percent).

One of the results of managed care is that the amount of time patients spend with their doctors on each visit has been declining with the total length of visits shrinking from about 25 minutes to about 19 minutes. Of this time, only two or three minutes is actually spent in face-to-face conversation between the doctor and the patient. Given the pressure on physicians to increase their productivity by seeing more patients and spending less time with each patient, it is no surprise that many patients feel the way they do.

The research also found a lot of physician resistance to the use of the Internet. The reasons for resistance include many rational concerns such as reimbursement, medical records privacy, and possible malpractice suits. At the same time, many physicians are concerned that it will lead to the impersonalization of care.

A report by Corporate Research Group, Inc. found that even as losses mount, eHealth industry revenues are expected to top $2.4 billion in 2001 and $3 billion in 2002.

The report “Seizing the eHealth Market Opportunity,” found that growth in 2002 and beyond will be driven by new federal HIPAA regulations and expanded use of the Internet as a front-end for connectivity. In 2000, the eHealth industry generated revenues of $1.77 billion, up nearly 80 percent over 1999, including revenues from electronic data interchange, while net loss rose four-fold to top $4 billion.

“Many more pure-play eHealth companies will fail in 2001,” said Carl Mercurio, president of Corporate Research Group. “The good news is that old-line healthcare organizations will increase their Internet activities, and in many cases buy up stand-alone eHealth companies at bargain prices.”

Of five distinct eHealth industry segments, the broad categories of connectivity and productivity appear to offer the best prospects for success, according to the report. Content and e-commerce offer the worst prospects, with further shakeouts expected among online pharmacies, eHealth supply chains, and online content providers.

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