eConsult rolls out across Canada, reducing wait times
June 20, 2018
OTTAWA – eConsult, an electronic solution that allows GPs to put questions to specialists and to receive a fast response, is rolling out across Canada. Moreover, other countries are interested in it as well.
The system was developed by a team in the Ottawa area, led by two physicians – family doctor Dr. Clare Liddy (pictured on right) and Dr. Erin Keely (pictured on left), an endocrinologist. Originally, Dr. Liddy mentioned that one of her patients had waited over nine months for an appointment with a specialist, a wait that both doctors agreed was far too long.
They knew that many issues and questions could be answered quickly by a specialist, without a face-to-face appointment, if only a system were in place to allow it. They went about creating that system.
This system, known as the Champlain BASE eConsult (short for Building Access to Specialists through eConsultation), started with just five specialty groups. By reaching out to their networks and informing other specialists about the system, that number grew to 109 specialty groups by 2018.
Doctors and nurse practitioners can send questions and information about a particular patient’s case to a specialist through a private and secure web page. The specialist then reviews the information and gives feedback about the patient without having to see the patient in person. Because the specialists provide their comments and advice quickly, turn-around time is less than a week, often only days.
Since 2011, the service has completed more than 35,000 cases and enrolled more than 1,300 primary care providers.
“I think it is hugely useful to patients because it allows referring doctors to receive answers in less than a week, as opposed to months for a referral visit,” said Dr. Doug Smith, a rheumatology specialist at The Ottawa Hospital who has been involved with eConsult since the beginning.
“It helps me get answers quickly, which helps my patients, and also helps me make decisions about whether I need to send this person to see a specialist or not,” said Dr. Kristina Whitehead, a family doctor.
The eConsult success has started to spread across the province and the country. In its 2017 budget, the Ontario government committed to investing $245 million over three years to improve patient access to specialists, including rolling out eConsult across the province.
Drs. Liddy and Keely have established the Ontario eConsult Centre of Excellence at The Ottawa Hospital in partnership with the Bruyère Research Institute and are leading the provincial government’s initiative to expand eConsult across Ontario.
Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick have now implemented eConsult. Primary care providers in Nunavut are also using the system, which is ideal for the north where the cost to transport patients is so high.
“Our goal is to have eConsult available across Canada for all Canadian patients,” said Dr. Keely. “The primary care doctors and patients see the value right away, so it is solving a problem.”