This past week the research team I work with published a new study examining the effectiveness of eConsults within the realm of psychiatry.1

What’s an eConsult?

This study looked at eConsults submitted by primary care providers (PCPs) to psychiatrists within the Champlain BASE service, which is an eConsult service that was developed in Ottawa.

eConsults – or electronic consultations – are a form of asynchronous communication between a referrer and an expert consultant through a secured web-based platform.1

Asynchronous means that the communication happening through the eConsult service is not occurring at the same time. This means that healthcare professionals don’t have to try to coordinate their schedules to have a discussion about a patient. Basically it’s like sending an email or text; you can read and respond later. However, this shouldn’t be confused with a doctor just shooting his buddy a text about a patient while he’s on the ninth hole. eConsult systems are secure to ensure the patient’s information remains private.2 To say that patient safety and privacy is a big deal in healthcare/research doesn’t even scratch the surface of it.

A referrer in an eConsult system is most commonly a PCP, such as a family doctor or nurse practitioner. The referrer can use the online secure platform to contact an expert consultant about a patient-specific question.2 Usually the expert consultant is a medical specialist, like a dermatologist or cardiologist. However, depending on the system they can also be nurse practitioners, pharmacists, diabetes educators, etc.3,4

Through the Champlain BASE service, the referrer and expert consultant can message each other back and forth until the question is answered or the patient’s issue has been resolved.2

What Did This Study Look At?

Some of the things we specifically looked at in this study included:

  • How long it took psychiatrists to respond;
  • What clinical topics (or psychiatric conditions) did PCPs ask about;
  • What types of questions were asked;
  • How did the advice impact what PCPs decided to do next;
  • PCPs perceptions of the value of the eConsult service within psychiatry.

Since this is an open access article, you can read the full results by clicking here. But – spoiler alert – our study concluded that eConsults have tremendous potential to improve access to psychiatric advice!

 

References

  1. Archibald, D., Stratton, J., Liddy, C., Grant, R., Green, D., & Keely, E. (2018). Evaluation of an electronic consultation service in psychiatry for primary care providers. BMC Psychiatry, 18(119).
  2. Liddy, C., Rowan, M., Afkham, A., Maranger, J., & Keely, E. (2013). Building access to specialist care through e-consultation. Open Medicine, 7(1).
  3. McKellips, F., Keely, E., Afkham, A., & Liddy, C. (2017). Improving access to allied health professionals through the Champlain BASE eConsult service: a cross-sectional study in Canada. British Journal of General Practice, 67(664), e757-e763.
  4. Grant R, Campbell, C., Grad, R., Guglani, S., Irons, M., Keely, E., Liddy, C., Price, D., Sewell, J., Shipman, S., Sisler, J., Tuot, D., Wood, T., & Archibald, D. (2018). Harnessing the educational potential of electronic consultations with practice-based reflective learning tools: A work-in-progress [poster presentation].
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