E-Consult Shown to Improve Access to Respirologists

A manuscript published in the International Journal of Quality Health Care titled, “Improving Primary Care Access to Respirologists Using eConsult” describes the findings from a retrospective review of 26,679 respirology eConsults. The publication details the most common topics and the most common types of questions asked by PCPs. The analysis found that in 23% of cases the PCP indicated that the e-consult avoided a referral and in 13% of cases the PCP was not going to refer but did after receiving the eConsult advice. In almost half of all cases (49%) the eConsult led to a new or additional course of action by the PCP. These results indicate that eConsult utilization can improve access to specialists and impact PCPs clinical course of action.


Background: Patients and primary care providers (PCP) can experience frustration about poor access to specialist care. The Champlain Building Access to Specialists through eConsultation (BASETM) is a secure online platform that allows PCPs to ask a clinical question to 142 different specialty groups. The specialist is expected to respond within 7 days.

Methods: This is a retrospective review of the Champlain BASETM respirology eConsults from January 2017 to December 2018. The eConsults were categorized by types of question asked by the referring provider, and by the clinical content of the referral. Specialists’ response time and time spent answering the clinical question was analyzed. Referring providers close out surveys were reviewed to assess the impact of the respirology eConsult service on traditional referral rates and clinical course of action.

Results: Of the 26,679 cases submitted to the Champlain BASE TM eConsult service 268 were respirology cases (1%). 91% were sent by family physicians, 9% by nurse practitioners. The median time to respond by specialists was 0.8 days, and the median time billed by specialists was 20 minutes. The most common topics were pulmonary nodules and masses (16.4%), cough (10.4%), infective problems (8.6%), COPD (8.6%) and dyspnea NYD (7.8%). The most common types of question asked by PCP were related to investigations warranted (43.1% of cases), general management (17.5%), monitoring (12.6%), need for a respirology referral (12.3%), and drug of choice (6.3%). In 23% of cases the PCP indicated they were planning to refer the patient and no longer need to (avoided referrals) and in 13% of cases the PCP was not going to refer but did after receiving the eConsult advice (prompted referrals). The eConsult led to a new or additional clinical course of action by the PCP in 49% of cases. In 51% of cases the PCP suggested the clinical topic would be well suited to a CME event.

Conclusions: Participation in eConsult services can improve timely access to respirologists while potentially avoiding clinic visit and significantly impacting referring PCPs clinical course of action. Using the most common clinical topics and types of question for CME planning should be considered. Future research may include a cost analysis, and provider perspectives on the role of eConsult in respirology care.

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