Background: Access to endocrinologists is a particular challenge for medically underserved populations. Introduction: Electronic consultations (eConsults) are a promising tool to help address this problem. Materials and Methods: This retrospective cohort study compared two groups: (1) Medicaid patients referred to an endocrinologist 1 year before the implementation of eConsults and (2) those referred in the 1 year after implementation. Data included patient demographics, dates of referral requests, appointment dates, eConsult response dates and times, diagnosis codes, and consultants' recommendations. Provider perspectives of eConsults were determined by using a survey. Results: Before eConsult implementation, only 138 out of 365 (37.8%) of referrals to endocrinology were completed. Postimplementation, 281 out of 469 (59.9%) of referrals were completed either by a confirmed face-to-face visit with an endocrinologist or by an eConsult, of whom 194 (41.4%) did not require a face-to-face visit. Thyroid conditions were the most common reason for a consult, accounting for roughly 40% of all consults. Overall, 32 out of 36 (89%) primary care providers (PCPs) indicated that they were satisfied with eConsults and 19 out of 36 (53%) felt that the process did not create additional work or burden for them. Discussion: These findings demonstrate that eConsult use can help address poor access to specialty care for Medicaid-insured patients. eConsults were able to significantly decrease the need for face-to-face visits and enabled PCPs to address specialty-related issues in primary care. Conclusions: Widespread adoption of eConsults could be a potential solution for major challenges that our health care system faces today.
Keywords: e-health; eConsults; telehealth; telemedicine.