More hospitals, physicians charging for patient email inquiries

With electronic health communications on the rise, more health providers are beginning to charge patients for patient email inquiries, The New York Times reported Jan. 24.

Patients are also being charged for receiving information over digital portals, like MyChart. 

Cleveland Clinic, whose email volume has doubled since 2019, began billing patients for emailed responses in November 2022. However, less than 1 percent of responses to the roughly 110,000 emails a week its providers received incurred a fee, according to the publication.

"Billing a patient's health insurance supports the necessary decision-making and time commitment of our physicians and other advanced professional providers,"
Angela Smith, a spokesperson for the health system, told the Times

A JAMA study revealed that the fees, which the Times said range from $3 to $100, may discourage some patients from contacting their physicians electronically. 

In 2019, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services first introduced regulations allowing providers to receive Medicare reimbursement for patient consults on medical portals, which gained much traction during and following the pandemic, when telehealth rose in popularity. 

In order to receive this reimbursement, providers must be responding to a patient inquiry and it must take at least five minutes. 

Private insurance companies have since followed suit in offering this kind of reimbursement, charging patients a copay for the consultations.

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