10 steps to setting up a regional e-consult service

Researchers in Canada who previously reported success with regional web-based e-consultation service called Champlain BASE (Building Access to Specialists through e-consultation) are back with advice for building such a service.

They offer 10 factors for repeating their success among other healthcare systems in an article at the journal Telemedicine and e-Health. Among the steps outlined:

  • Identifying your partners--Such a system needs doctors to advocate for it and buy-in from the regional health community to provide infrastructure and workers. Look to the infrastructure and assistance already available before seeking to add more, they advise.
  • Choosing your platform--Likewise, the platform you choose should based on local existing infrastructure to enable sustainability and scalability.
  • Starting as a pilot project--Start small, then build, they advise. Monthly meetings with a small group of primary care providers helped ensure the system being built met their needs.
  • Designing your product--They found an online form that could be accessed from anywhere the easiest solution, but came up with the final form through experimentation.
  • Ensuring patient privacy--Privacy impact and threat risk assessments were performed, with the final documentation taking about six months. Many health organizations have privacy officers who can help in this regard, while risk assessments of the technology platform generally requires calling in outside experts, they said.

The Canadian system continues to grow and enjoy high levels of satisfaction among both primary care docs and specialists, the authors say, making it a viable way to reduce the length of time it takes patients to get in to see a specialist.

Patients in the United States are warming up to the idea of virtual doctor visits, with 70 percent open to the idea, according to a survey by technology vendor Cisco.

Meanwhile, the real threat to physician incomes from telemedicine--as well as retail health clinics--is convenience and lower cost, FiercePracticeManagement noted recently.

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