Primary Care Providers' Perspectives on the Ontario eConsult Program

Telemed J E Health. 2021 Sep;27(9):1039-1045. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2020.0338. Epub 2020 Nov 30.

Abstract

Background: Electronic consultation (eConsult) allows asynchronous virtual communication between primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists regarding patient care. Introduction: The Ontario eConsult Program enables timely and equitable access to specialist advice for Ontarians. This study examines clinicians' perspectives and experiences with the program. Materials and Methods: We conducted an anonymous survey of PCPs registered for the Ontario eConsult Program. The survey ran from June to August 2019 and included questions on PCPs' experiences with the service, opinions on remuneration, and recommendations for enhancement. Results: One thousand two hundred fifty-six PCPs completed the survey (response rate of 16%). Seventy-eight percent had submitted an eConsult, of whom 67% were active users (i.e., had submitted ≥3 eConsults in the past 6 months). The majority of PCPs stated that their user experience was very good (57%) or good (31%), 74% agreed that eConsult improved their referral decision making, and 73% agreed that eConsult increased their ability to manage a broader array of diagnoses. Thirty-seven percent felt adequately compensated for using eConsult, 30% wanted higher rates of remuneration, and 31% were not compensated or were unaware of the fee code. Discussion: The majority of PCPs who use eConsult had positive experiences with the service. Nevertheless, improvements to further streamline the service's use, particularly through electronic medical record integration, were broadly cited as a desirable improvement. Conclusions: PCPs expressed an overall positive experience with the Ontario eConsult Program, citing prompt response times and improved care delivery as chief benefits.

Keywords: access to care; electronic consultation; provider perspectives; provider workload; telehealth; telemedicine; wait times.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Personnel
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Ontario
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Remote Consultation*
  • Specialization