America’s largest public health plan introduces online consultations

L.A. Care Health Plan, the largest public healthcare provider in the United States, has launched its $1.5 million eConsult healthcare IT system. The information network will allow physicians to discuss patient symptoms with specialists, share information across facilities and make referrals when appropriate.

Deployment of the eConsult system will take place across 47 of L.A. Care Health Plan’s clinics across California. When the system has been fully implemented, one in four clinics across Los Angeles County will be utilizing the system.

Dr. Elaine Batchlor, chief medical officer at L.A. Care Health Plan, said that “L.A. Care is committed to helping safety net providers build capacity and improve efficiency and access to care. The eConsult system is one of the many industry-leading projects that L.A. Care has funded and implemented to improve quality of care for our most vulnerable populations.”

The program was developed in partnership with Med Point Management, and follows a successful pilot scheme that tested the eConsult system across 40 small medical facilities in 2009. The pilot revealed that eConsult enabled healthcare providers to share information more effectively. In-person visits to clinical specialists were reduced by between 25 and 48 percent following the implementation of eConsult.

According to Information Week, eConsult allows physicians to utilize the system in three ways. Clinicians can use the peer-to-peer system to ask specialists questions regarding patient symptoms, seek specific treatment information such as which diagnostic tests to perform, and make referrals to specialists.

“More often than not, the specialist is able to provide information to the primary care physician,” said Sajid Ahmed, director of health information technology and e-health strategy for L.A. Care, quoted by the news source. In the event that a patient referral is required, he added that “the specialist already has the electronic workup. eConsult is the front end of the referral process.”

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