Weitzman Institute Study Demonstrates Electronic Consults Improve Access to Cardiac Care for the Underserved

Newly Published Research Shows Positive Results From Community Health Center’s Groundbreaking Use of eConsults

MIDDLETOWN, Conn., March 9, 2016: Electronic consultations improve access to and timeliness of referrals for cardiac care for underserved populations, according to a study published this month in the Annals of Family Medicine. Organized and conducted by Community Health Center’s Weitzman Institute, the study involved a randomized controlled trial of 36 primary care physicians at Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC), who referred 590 patients to cardiologists. Lead study authors were J. Nwando Olayiwola, MD, MPH, and Daren Anderson, MD, Director of the Weitzman Institute.

For two-thirds of patients referred for an eConsult, an appropriate treatment plan was developed and implemented without the need for a face to face visit with a cardiologist. Additionally, eConsults were completed more quickly than those sent for face-to-face consultations, (less than two days in most cases compared to 24 days for face to face) even for urgent referrals. The eConsults also appeared to reduce emergency room use and streamlined specialty referrals with no increase in adverse cardiovascular outcomes, according to the study.

“Access to specialty care is often limited, especially for medically underserved populations,” the authors said in the study. “Obtaining appointments for these referrals is challenging because of the paucity of specialists willing to see them,” and wait times for appointments can be as long as a year, they added.

“The results show that a substantial number of consultations can be safely and more efficiently managed through secure electronic exchange of information without compromising the quality of care and with improved convenience for the patient,” the authors concluded. A follow-up study is being conducted to examine the financial implications of electronic consultations.