As it becomes more difficult to book appointments with specialists, doctors in the U.S. are turning to the Web to help speed the process for patients.
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, according to a Kaiser Health News report.
The program was implemented three years ago, and while it hasn't solved all problems, things have improved because of it, according to KHN.
Through the program, clinicians use guidelines to find out who needs immediate face-to-face appointments with specialists. Those who can wait continue to receive care from their primary care physician through electronic means.
Some issues remain, however, such as patients still requiring face-to-face appointments with specialists and the dearth of ones available to see.
The effort did show that about 30 percent of patients did not need to see a specialist in person, and it now offers physicians a way to communicate with specialists more easily, according to the article. What's more, the program has shown promise to be a model throughout the U.S., with leaders in Illinois, Alaska and Connecticut showing interested in it, L.A. County Specialty Care Director Paul Giboney, M.D., tells KHN.
Similarly, researchers in Canada also saw success with their own regional Web-based e-consultation service called Champlain BASE (Building Access to Specialists through e-consultation).
In addition, an electronic system installed at Tacoma, Washington-based Franciscan Health System allows employees there to undergo routine medical consultations from the privacy of their own homes.
To learn more:
- read the KHN article