Primary care providers sometimes struggle to connect patients with in-demand specialty care. Specialists, on their end, are often overwhelmed by routine clinical referrals. eConsults are easing these challenges and improving the patient experience as a result.
eConsults, or electronic medical consultations, provide physicians and patients a way to seek specialty care for nonurgent medical problems that may not need in-person evaluations. These interprofessional telephone, internet or Epic consultations are available for most specialties at Akron Children’s.
“eConsults are a big win for everyone and remove barriers for patient access to specialty care,” said Nicholas Nguyen, MD, Akron Children’s director of pediatric dermatology, who has been providing eConsults for two years.
For the patient, eConsults expand access to specialty care, reducing costs by eliminating in-person visits, associated travel expenses and lost time at work or school, which improves the patient experience.
For providers, eConsults offer rapid access to specialty guidance to co-manage their patient’s care plan or validate their treatment plans, while reducing unnecessary clinical referrals.
Dr. Nguyen and his team are seeing the positive results of eConsults right here in our communities. A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that Northeast Ohio parents of children with atopic dermatitis are spending approximately 35% of their discretionary income on treatment. Prompt, evidence-based guidance by specialty providers through eConsults are keeping money in their pockets.
Dr. Nguyen and his team receive eConsult requests for many common skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, impetigo and molluscum contagiosum, in addition to more significant infectious diseases. Dr. Nguyen points to recent diagnoses by his partner, pediatric dermatologist Daniel Grove, MD, of an adolescent with a disseminated gonorrhea infection and another with disseminated Lyme disease.
“In both of these situations, early diagnosis and treatment were key to reducing disease morbidity and long-term sequela,” he said. “eConsults enabled the adolescents to quickly get the care they needed.”
Dr. Nguyen believes eConsults are an important way to help maintain the integrity of the medical home and reduce care fragmentation.
“Ten percent of primary care visits involve a skin concern, and the vast majority of these issues can be addressed in the primary care setting,” he said. “eConsults are an opportunity to provide both clinical guidance and education, while keeping the care where it belongs – in the primary care setting.”
Any licensed advanced practice provider or physician may request an eConsult. eConsults are meant for nonurgent medical questions and should not be used for emergent questions. In addition, they should not be used to circumvent established scheduling practices or to secure an earlier appointment for a patient if not clinically warranted. Specialists have three days to complete the eConsult.
To get started, refer to the Epic training guide titled, ECL eConsult Workflow. For additional questions about eConsults, call the eConsult Help Line at 330-543-6248 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.