Use MyChart to talk to your doctor? It could cost you

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Starting next week, the University of Rochester Medical Center may start billing patients who communicate with their healthcare provider electronically.

Patients use the MyChart service to do everything from schedule appointments to refill medications to ask questions about their care.

Beginning July 17, URMC could bill insurance for “medical advice messages,” according to its website.

It goes on to say “if your message is about a new health concern, or a change in your condition that requires your provider to spend five minutes or more of their time and their medical expertise” it could be billed — and copays and deductibles could apply.

One question that was clarified was: What if I get my lab results and want to understand them better so I ask my doctor, but they’re using their medical expertise to answer?

“Answering a quick question about lab results – that doesn’t really take medical decision making, that’s just expertise. That would never be billable,” said Vicky Hines, Chief Operating Officer of URMC.

“Our providers now receive more than two million MyChart messages each year. Many of these messages are complex and would be better handled through an office or telemedicine visit so that we can provide the care our patients expect and deserve,” according to the statement.

If a message will be billed to insurance, the patient will receive a message notifying them.

Audrey Sample is a patient with URMC who uses the message function often.

“I use MyChart to message about follow-up care, to report any symptoms that I’m having if I had a medication change to see if those symptoms are normal. In November I used it to see if I needed to go to the emergency room or if it could wait for an appointment later that week,” said Sample.

Another concern of Sample’s is whether this could push certain people away from using the system.

“I understand that people need to be compensated for their time, but I don’t feel like this is the way to go about it and this is going to be punishing people who are already in a vulnerable situation,” Sample said.

This is a developing story. News10NBC will provide updates as they become available.