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Monitoring Interim Complaints

02/02/2017

My next appointment with my physician is over a month away. When I experienced a new pain which resolved within a few days, it did not seem to warrant an earlier visit. How do I assure that I will report the symptoms accurately -- if at all -- during a short encounter weeks away?

Enter the patient portal. I logged in, posted a summary of the flare up, and the physician or her staff acknowledged reviewing it.

In an ideal world my treatment team would let me know whether I should schedule an earlier appointment, or maybe even an emergency room or urgent care visit to evaluate the reported symptoms. They might even refer me to a specialist. But how much time can even physician extenders devote to analyzing and responding to such reports, especially with no compensation?

In an ideal world someone pays for the time and expertise involved, but should the patient pay or the third party payer?

Widespread, thoughtful application of this practice should lead to timely intervention when indicated, possibly saving medical dollars overall. But will patients overuse this service? How can providers limit the flow of information? Will artificial intelligence allow for more cost effective screening of such reports?

Perhaps increased use of intermediate kinds of patient encounters, such as text, email, telephone, or videoconference, allow for right-sizing the response.