Researchers in Ontario, Canada, conducted a study to assess the impact of utilizing an electronic consultation (eConsult) service to provide timely access to COVID-19 specialist advice for primary care practitioners. The study examined eConsult cases submitted to a COVID-19 specialist group to assess usage patterns, impact on response times and referrals, and the content of clinical questions being asked. They analyzed 289 eConsults submitted to the Champlain BASE(™) and Ontario eConsult services between March and September 2020.
Fifty-one eConsult requests were submitted to the Champlain BASE(™) and 238 to the Ontario eConsult service. The median specialist response time was 0.6 days (range: three minutes to 15 days) and the average time spent by specialists per eConsult was 16 minutes (range: five to 59 minutes). In 24% of cases, eConsults resulted in an avoided face-to-face referral, saving patients and the health care system time and money. Five major themes were identified relating to clinical questions: (1) precautions for high-risk populations; (2) guidance on self-isolation and return to work; (3) diagnostic clarification and/or need for COVID-19 testing; (4) guidance on personal protective equipment; and (5) management of chronic symptoms. Researchers assert that their study demonstrates the significant potential of eConsults during a pandemic as the protocol was quickly implemented across Ontario and resulted in rapid and improved access to specialist care.
Evaluation of an Electronic Consultation Service for COVID-19 Care
Jatinderpreet Singh, MD, CCFP, MSc, MASc, et al
Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa and C.T. Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada