Outcomes and Safety of Electronic Consult Use in Vascular Surgery

J Vasc Surg. 2020 May;71(5):1726-1732. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2019.08.231. Epub 2019 Oct 11.

Abstract

Objective: The objective of this study was to determine how electronic consults (eConsults) are used in vascular surgery in a veterans health care setting and whether their use is safe for patients.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed of all eConsults completed by the vascular surgery service at the Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Healthcare System between October 10, 2012 and November 15, 2013. Patients' demographics and comorbidities were collected. eConsult recommendations and patient and provider compliance with recommendations were collected. Data on adverse outcomes up to 1 year after consultation and data on all-cause mortality at 1 year and 5 years were collected.

Results: Between October 10, 2012 and November 15, 2013, of 350 eConsults completed, 123 (35%) were for peripheral artery disease, 93 (27%) for carotid stenosis, and 57 (16%) for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Unique recommendations were made for 291 consults (83%). Medication recommendations were made in 140 consults (40%). The most commonly recommended medication was cilostazol. Compliance with medication recommendations ranged from 30% to 61%. Noninvasive imaging was recommended in 220 consults (60.3%). Procedures overall were recommended in only six consults (1.7%). Five-year all-cause mortality for categorized diagnoses ranged from 8.3% for nonabdominal aneurysm to 28.1% for abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Conclusions: Within the Veterans Affairs vascular surgery service, eConsults provide a safe and effective means of triaging and providing recommendations for patients with vascular disease. eConsults used to augment traditional consultations may provide an important means of reducing clinic congestion for providers and reducing time and cost for patients.

Keywords: Access to care; Communication; Coordination of care; eConsult.