E-consults improve communication between clinicians, specialists

When it comes to improving access to specialty care, especially for underserved populations, e-consultations are a viable solution, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

As the number of ambulatory care visits that lead to a referral to another clinician grows, so does the need for communication between clinicians and specialists. However, only 34 percent of specialists routinely get information from referring primary care clinicians, according to the study's authors.

The researchers conducted the study at Community Health Center Inc. (CHCI) in Connecticut, a patient-centered medical home that provides medical, behavioral and dental care to medically underserved patients. E-consultations were submitted by the clinician via the electronic health record system and messages were received by specialists as an incoming message in the EHR.

The study's authors found that half of cardiology referrals could be sent via an e-consultation, and that electronic reviews were finished almost a month sooner than face-to-face visits.

"These results show that a substantial number of consultations can be safely and more efficiently managed though a secure electronic exchange of information, with improved convenience for the patient as well," the authors said.

A study published in Telemedicine and e-Health in 2013 found that remote consultations with specialists were well-received among physicians and provided more timely access and improved communication.

In Los Angeles County, local officials created a program called eConsult to streamline the referral process. The program, in use at L.A. Care Health Plan, allows for interaction online between physicians and specialists to exchange medical records and images, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study