eConsult program a success for providers and patients

Los Angeles County launched eConsult back in 2012 to help alleviate long wait times to see specialists. The program allows primary care physicians to get advice from specialists for their patients. A new study published in Health Affairs shows the program’s success.

“eConsult systems are a promising and sustainable intervention that could improve access to specialist care for underserved patients,” the authors of the study wrote.

About a quarter of patients were able to resolve their issue without having to make an additional appointment with a specialist.

When patients did have to see a specialist, wait times were reduced and 30 percent of patients were able to see a specialist within 30 days in 2015. The average wait time is 52 days, which dropped from 63 days in 2014.

Most primary care physicians received an answer from a specialist within one day.

In 2016, eConsult served about 130,000 patients from more than 400 clinics.

The program helps address gaps in receiving care, especially for lower-income patients, who often can’t afford to take additional time off work for multiple appointments. Instead, they use the emergency room for care, which can cost the system more.

L.A. Care Health Plan funds the project.