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Keep your MyChart messages simple and non-urgent to avoid fees

This stock image shows a person using a laptop computer.
Adobe Stock
This stock image shows a person using a laptop computer.

The University of Rochester Medical Center wants to reduce the amount of time providers spend on electronic interactions with patients.

To that end, starting Monday, it will begin billing patients who use MyChart messaging to communicate with their doctor or other health care provider for more complex requests and questions.

“Some of our patients have begun to use MyChart in place of an office visit or an on-demand telemedicine visit,” said Vicky Hines, chief operating officer for UR Medicine’s faculty group.

The portal was initially designed for patients to access their medical history and to ask physicians simple, non-urgent questions. Now, officials say providers receive more than 2 million messages through MyChart each year, and up to 3% of those require more in-depth medical responses and research for new problems and symptoms.

“The provider really has to spend some time and thought going through the record,” Hines said. “So it's those visits that have become challenging for provider’s times.”

This new billing strategy has been adopted by other health care systems across the nation. In November of last year, The Chicago Tribune reported that a few systems in the Midwest region and others in California implemented the policy.

Hines said the other objective is really to make sure that patients have more “easy button options,” or “ways that they can get their needs met without always having to call the office and come in.”

The type of messages providers may choose to bill includes reviewing medical records, assessing a new issue or symptom, and adjusting medications.

The policy will go into effect July 17.

In a statement, Rochester Regional Health said it "anticipates billing for MyCare messages in the near future for requests that require more than a brief response and represent a larger investment of time on behalf of the provider. Patients will receive detailed explanations of how that billing will work, when RRH is ready to implement any changes.”

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.