NU Online News Service, Jan. 11, 2005, 4:19 p.m. EST

Doctors at Columbia University Medical Center have started working with a California company to communicate with patients through the Web.[@@]

The doctors have agreed to accept a rate of $25 for each Internet-based “medical visit” conducted using a medical communication system run by RelayHealth Corp., Emeryville, Calif.

The RelayHealth system asks each patient a series of questions about any symptoms or other health care concerns, then gives the physician a report on the answers. The system also checks member eligibility, calculates co-payments and coinsurance rates, and submits claims to health plans.

Patients also can use the RelayHealth system to get normal lab results, schedule doctor appointments and request referrals.

Participating doctors are eligible to get $20 for each Web visit from Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a unit of WellChoice Inc., New York, and a $5 co-payment from the plan member helped, RelayHealth says.