We started online with communication and health education, the way many organizations did, but quickly realized that the way to engage people is to create a portfolio of useful activities and transactions. Our pharmacy refill service was very popular at the outset, and we followed that with a whole suite of functionality, including appointment-making, viewing lab results, and being able to e-mail your physician. Online after-visit summaries are a huge asset for people who can't take in everything during an appointment, or for their family members to access.
We've done studies showing that people who are active online are more likely to stay with us than people who aren't. Their overall satisfaction is higher. And we know that it does make them healthier. We did a very rigorous clinical study of two groups of diabetic patients, one active online and one not. The latter had better blood sugar control. They can graph their results over time, get prescription refills online, and converse with their physicians. We haven't compared the cost of care [for people who use online services vs. those who don't] but we know in general terms that people who don't have good sugar management are more costly.
We also know that one in four e-mail communications with physicians results in a saved office visit, and those have cost savings implications, in things like gallons of gas, or parking spaces or exam rooms needed.
On new capabilities
We want to evolve our mobile applications to give patients real-time reminders about their appointments through text, or let them know what the wait is at their pharmacy, or help them with way finding when they're visiting one of our large, complex campuses.
And of course, there's a whole world of personal health monitoring out there that we're thinking about-how to prioritize devices, and how to turn that data into information.