E-consultations are being offered within clinic walls as an option for specialist advice without a face-to-face consultation appointment. In a six month time frame, nearly 100% of primary care internists and family medicine providers in a multispecialty practice had used an e-consultation at least once. Specialists also used e-consultations for advice from other specialists. E-consultations were often questions about interpreting images or laboratory tests, or questions about management of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, hypertension, or headaches. Although e-consultations were offered as an alternative to face-to-face specialty consultations, 1,111 of 5,334 e-consultations eventually did receive face-to-face appointments in the same specialty. Within 30 days of the e-consultation 11.5% had a specialty face-to-face visit and 17.7% had seen a specialist face-to-face within 90 days of the e-consultation. The conversions of e-consultations to face-to-face consultations depended on the specialty providing the e-consultation (fewer for gastroenterology and infectious disease), patient distance from the clinic (fewer for international patients and those living greater than 800 kilometers from the clinic), and experience of specialist responding to the e-consultation (lower conversions for specialists providing 15 or more e-consultations).
Keywords: consultation; e-consultation; e-referral; remote consultation; teleconsulting; virtual consultation.
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