The New York Times > Technology > Digital Rx: Take Two Aspirins and E-Mail Me in the Morning: "Doctors may no longer make house calls, but they are answering patient e-mail messages - and being paid for it.
In a move to improve efficiency and control costs, health plans and medical groups around the country are now beginning to pay doctors to reply by e-mail, just as they pay for office visits. While some computer-literate doctors have been using e-mail to communicate informally with patients for years, most have never been paid for that service.
This shift toward online doctor-patient communication is important for another reason. Physicians and health care technology specialists say they believe that it could help spur the changeover to electronic health care information systems, which government officials and industry leaders say is needed to reduce medical errors and promote better care. Doctors at the clinics of the University of California, Davis, grew accustomed to using e-mail for clinical purposes before the clinics introduced electronic medical records, said Dr. Eric Liederman, medical director of clinical information systems at Davis. The messaging "gave them some comfort and facility with using the computer," he said."