KHSC specialists take part in eConsult project

News / Patient Care / Technology / Partnerships
By John Pereira

Pilot project aims to reduce wait times and improve access to care

It’s not unusual for a visit to a family physician to end in a referral to a specialist in the quest for more information or treatment for a specific condition or health concern. As patients across the country know, it may take some time before an appointment can actually take place due to the long list of other patients also waiting to meet that specialist. 

A new pilot-project in our region is looking to help change that. The project is being led by the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO) in partnership with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN), OntarioMD, the South East Local Health Integration Network and the Champlain BASE Project Team. It allows primary health-care providers, like family physicians, to use technology to ask for opinions from physician specialists without having to send their patient for an appointment. The goal is to reduce the number of unnecessary referrals to specialists and to assist primary care providers in quickly treating their patients.

The technology allows a family doctor to send patient-specific questions using OTN’s secure web-based platform. They can attach files such as a lab report, photo, or diagnostic scan so the specialist has all the information they need to provide an opinion. The specialist then can respond with advice or suggestions for treatment.

“Since we launched the program in February, we are already seeing positive results,” says Danielle Claus, Executive Director of SEAMO. “We’ve completed nearly 200 eConsults so far and most users are coming back, which tells us they see value in the tool for their patients.”

So far, 95 primary care providers and 75 specialists, including many from Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), are taking part. The specialists represent a wide range of expertise, covering 25 areas of clinical specialty including dermatology, gastroenterology, psychiatry, surgery and cardiology. 

“I am a huge fan of this technology and this way of doing business,” says KHSC Cardiologist Dr. Chris Simpson. “The eConsult requests I have received have been well-constructed and clear, and have allowed me to respond in a fulsome way. To be able to save the patient the time and inconvenience of a clinic visit, or to get some preliminary work done to make their upcoming visit more efficient, is a huge win for patients, doctors, and taxpayers."

The project is also receiving positive reviews from primary healthcare providers. 

“I wish I had this years ago,” said Dr. Arawn Therrien, a family physician at Stone’s Mill Family Health Centre in Gananoque. “Patients are excited because I’m getting answers back within 48 hours.”

The pilot will run until July 31, at which time a decision will be made to expand or amend the program. 

“We expect to have some hard data in our hands very soon that will tell us how effective the this technology is in helping to improve access to care for patients and reducing wait times for specialists,” says Claus. 

If primary health-care providers or physician specialists would like to learn more about the program, or would like to begin using the technology, they can contact Lacey Cranston at the SEAMO Office by phone at 613-533-6000 ext. 75963 or by email. Lots of useful information can also be found on the SEAMO website