Ten steps to establishing an e-consultation service to improve access to specialist care

Telemed J E Health. 2013 Dec;19(12):982-90. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2013.0056. Epub 2013 Sep 27.


There is dissatisfaction among primary care physicians, specialists, and patients with respect to the consultation process. Excessive wait times for receiving specialist services and inefficient communication between practitioners result in decreased access to care and jeopardize patient safety. We created and implemented an electronic consultation (e-consultation) system in Eastern Ontario to address these problems and improve the consultation process. The e-consultation system has passed through the proof-of-concept and pilot study stages and has effectively reduced unnecessary referrals while receiving resoundingly positive feedback from physician-users. Using our experience, we have outlined the 10 steps to developing an e-consultation service. We detail the technical, administrative, and strategic considerations with respect to (1) identifying your partners, (2) choosing your platform, (3) starting as a pilot project, (4) designing your product, (5) ensuring patient privacy, (6) thinking through the process, (7) fostering relationships with your participants, (8) being prepared to provide physician payment, (9) providing feedback, and (10) planning the transition from pilot to permanency. In following these 10 steps, we believe that the e-consultation system and its associated improvements on the consultation process can be effectively implemented in other healthcare settings.

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Ontario
  • Program Development / methods*
  • Remote Consultation / organization & administration*
  • Specialization*
  • Telemedicine