- Armed with a portion of a $7 million HHS grant, the University of Virginia Health System will soon begin testing the integration of the eConsults/eReferrals model with its EpicCare EHR system, according to a UVA press release. The test is aimed at applying technology to help mitigate patient-care issues caused by the lack of specialists in certain geographic areas.
- The eConsults model—incorporated by the Mayo Clinic's AskMayoExpert website last year—will allow primary care physicians to consult with specialists using a system that allows the specialist access to the patient's electronic records. The primary care physician asks the specialist a question, sends the query through the system, and the specialist responds after examining the patient's history and treatment regimen via the EHR. The eReferral mode allows for a more comprehensive review between primary care physicians and specialists as a precursor to sending the patient to the specialist for a consult and/or treatment.
- "If you can answer the least complex questions using this model and reduce appointments by 10%, you can open up more appointments for patients who will truly benefit from face-to-face interactions with specialty physicians," UVA's chief medical officer Dr. Chris Ghaemmaghami said in the press release.
The shortage of specialists around the country is nothing new, and even though the healthcare industry has been on a hiring spree, that has zero impact on the tighter economies for private practice physicians. Not enough doctors plus greater demand from new ACA enrollments equals a potentially deadly problem for patients.
This program is an essential test of how EHR technology, when applied in a patient-centric matrix, can improve outcomes while keeping utilization and other costs down. Moreover, it also has the potential to help the specialists in private practice serve more patients by expanding their patient base from their immediate geographic area to potentially all over their state, and even the country if critical restrictions ease.