The role of online-medical service provision in the effectiveness of care
Today, patients can contact physicians not only face-to-face but also via video-chat or questionnaires in many countries. In recent years, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, online-treatment tools have become more important than ever before in medical care. While these new forms of medical treatment can increase physician accessibility for immobile patients or for patients living in regions with undersupply of medical care, they could also influence the relationship between physicians and patients as well as health outcomes. Until now, rather little is known about the effects of online medical treatment on the quality of health care, however.
In this project we plan to systematically investigate how online-treatment tools and patient involvement influence behavior and health outcomes in patient-physician relationships. Investigations conducted in this project are based on controlled laboratory experiments. In recent years, health economics research has started to use this type of experiments to test the behavioral effects of different features of providers’ and patients’ decision environment. In the laboratory, ceteris paribus changes of parameters can be implemented and their effects on individual behavior can be directly observed. External aspects like patient or provider characteristics can be isolated and, if behavior changes, this variation can be attributed to the modified parameter (e.g., the type of online interaction).
We first focus on physicians and isolate the effects that specific online features have on their communication and treatment decisions. In a second step, the focus shifts to patients, which allows studying questions that directly relate to patients’ responses to specific online-tools. In a third step, the focus is more on the interaction between physicians and patients and patients’ involvement in the decision process. Our results should not only provide insights into the design of effective online-treatment tools, but also enrich theoretical research on patient-physician relationships.