The Internet is a huge database of information, which includes medical knowledge like illness, disease, and injury. Sites like WebMD have been available to web users for decades now. Like all innovations, this has its good and bad implications. The impact of patient access to this information has been mixed, and the future only looks more unclear.
Questions and Answers
One good impact of sites like WebMD is that patients can find answers to simple questions online. The content on these sites allow people to read about the pros and cons of certain exercise regimens, diets, stimulants like caffeine, and even the different types of birth control. Since all the information is provided and reviewed by medical professionals, the user knows they’re getting accurate info without having to contact a doctor or schedule an appointment. This also reduces the patient’s number of visits to the physician, which may reduce lapses in the payment cycle.
However, not every question can be resolved by reading an online article. One serious downside to sites like WebMD is the potential for patients to self-diagnose. If a patient puts their symptoms into the symptom checker and finds a match to a serious disorder, they may panic and assume they have this illness without consulting an actual trained physician. Or the converse could occur: a patient with a serious issue might check their symptoms and assume one of the less serious matching disorders is the cause. This could be especially bad if a patient has already returned home from the hospital after a procedure. It could compromise their diligence with at-home care and cause them to have to return to the hospital, which of course results in financial setbacks for that hospital under the Affordable Care Act.
One thing is certain; WebMD and similar sites are popular. The willingness of patients to seek out medical care online indicates that industry trends like telemedicine are a viable option for the future. Like WebMD, telemedicine presents complications and potential benefits alike, especially when it comes to insurance coverage for the consultation.
Ultimately, WebMD is a great resource, but the information found there should often be taken with a grain of salt. Because a patient is not fully assessed by a doctor, making valid assumptions based off of a list of symptoms is difficult. Nothing compares to a consultation with a trained doctor. Educating patients about what necessitates an appointment will save the patient time and stress, and will also reduce the likelihood of nonpayment. If someone comes to get an issue checked out because WebMD caused them concern, and it turns out to be nothing, they may not feel compelled to pay for the doctor’s service. If you’re struggling with issues like patient nonpayment, contact us today to see how our services could refine your payment collection process.