Many physicians we speak with think it is heresy to charge their patients for access to their own medical images. There are a host of good reasons they use in opposing our view: They say they don't want to "nickel and dime" their patients. Or, that they are focused on satisfying their patients and that this charge is a dissatisfier. We understand why they feel that way. But, we implore them to consider changing their opinion. Here’s why…
1. Medical insurance reimbursement for physicians and providers continues to be squeezed.
Although we all like to blame that on the big nameless and faceless insurance companies or perhaps government agencies, ultimately it is the patient who (perhaps indirectly) ultimately benefits from these reduced reimbursements, that you so reluctantly have little choice but to succumb to.
2. Physicians and hospitals spend way more than they expect on burning CDs that they then dutifully provide to patients, often free of charge.
Most physicians wouldn’t think of giving away their medical services for free. Why are CDs, which cost a great deal of money, different? We found that burning a CD and providing it to a patient, along with the labor and equipment involved, costs the physician’s practice or hospital on average $15.00 per disc. If you add the fact that many discs need to be mailed or overnighted, you could easily double that cost. Even a small practice that burns five CDs per day could end up spending $30,000 per year on providing “free” discs to their patients!
3. Patients and the ultimate recipient of these CDs – other physicians - actually hate this medium!
Often patients have to travel across town to pick up a CD at your facility. This is time consuming and costly, especially considering the cost of fuel, tolls, parking and public transportation in many larger cities. Modern computers don’t even have disc drives, so often these discs are useless. Patients bear the burden of storing CDs, which often end up in a shoebox in the back of their closet simply collecting dust. Of course, this also means they often end up losing the disc or the disc becomes damaged as the shoebox gets moved around. Lastly, they do what what physicians hate most of all - they forget the disc they were supposed to bring to their appointment. This not only interrupts the physician's schedule, but could delay the patient's care even further. Believe us, no one leaves that appointment satisfied.
The physician receiving the CD is often inconvenienced by just as many possible reasons: the disc isn't readable, there is no disc drive available, the embedded image viewer commands are obnoxiously unclear or confusing, the CD is broken or - worst of all - the CD contains the wrong patient's information.
If you gave patients an alternative that didn’t cause them these inconveniences, they will likely be more than willing to pay for it.
Think about it: if patients could access their images on their own cellphones or laptops, in the comfort of their own homes, while on the go, or right when they find they need them (in their doctor's appointment), they would likely be willing to pay for that improved, convenient service. What if these images were available to them online now and years from now? They wouldn't have to remember where they stored that dusty CD or worry they lost their only copy of their x-ray during a big cross-country move.
Adding to convenience, patients could send their images to their physicians before an appointment with the simple press of a button on their cellphones. No more forgetting to bring the CD with them or having to make a trip to the post office to mail the CD to an out-of-town specialist. For the cost of a latte, your patient can have a quick and easy experience... talk about one happy patient!
In the U.S., HIPAA and HITECH clearly prescribe that a physician may charge a patient what it costs them to provide a copy of an image to the patient, typically referring to generating a CD for the patient but also for digital copies, as well. Of course, CDs inherently require the added physical costs of acquiring (picking them up) and delivering (shipping or carrying) them, making them more expensive option. We believe that physicians and patients alike would much prefer to pay a $6.50 fee (an amount expressly permitted by HIPAA) to access their images online and avoid all this hassle.
We are so sure that patients will prefer to pay for electronic access instead of getting a "free" CD, that we are willing to provide our Patient Access service to you for FREE!* Find out more here.
*Practice must be generating five or more discs per day on average to be eligible. Patients will be charged a one-time fee of $6.50 to “unlock” their image. They can then securely share this image electronically, and have access to it anytime in the future. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.