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The webVisit Study: Impact of online doctor-patient communication on satisfaction and cost of care
Eric Zimmerman, MPH MBA, Senior Vice President, RelayHealth Corporation (Presenter); Jeffrey Rideout, MD, President, Blue Shield of California Foundation (Presenter); Laurence Baker, Associate Professor of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University

Findings Summary
The webVisit Study was an independent research initiative sponsored by Blue Shield of California and conducted by investigators based at University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University. Participating organizations included several health plans and large medical groups in California and Connecticut and ten large self-insured employers. The treatment group included 282 physicians and 3,688 patients. The study evaluated the impact of clinically structured secure online communication on healthcare costs, patient satisfaction, and physician satisfaction. This session will presents final results, including analysis of claims data from June 2000 through May 2002 for 5,727 patients. Analysis of these healthcare claims revealed a statistically significant reduction in office-based claims costs (p<.01) and total claims costs (p<.05) within the treatment group as compared with matched controls. Random sample physician surveys showed that most found the service easy to use (72%), satisfying (53%) and preferable to an office visit for non-urgent care (56%). Patients surveyed who used RelayHealth during the study were 50% less likely to report having missed work due to illness, 45% less likely to report having visited the doctor, and 36% less likely to report having telephoned the doctor’s office.

Learning Objective 1
Describe current physician and patient attitudes towards online communication.

Learning Objective 2
List impacts of clinically-structured online communication on patient sat, provider sat and healthcare costs

Dissemination Plan
The research team is currently preparing a manuscript for submission to top-tier peer reviewed medical journals. In addition, we have presented results at several national conferences this past spring, and will present in a half-dozen regional and national forums this Fall. Results have also been used to inform additional development.

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