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Patients and family doctors get faster answers from specialists

Patients and family doctors get faster answers from specialists

Dr. Erin Keely (left) and Dr. Clare Liddy received the Honour Roll award last week from Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins.

Patients are getting faster answers from specialists thanks to Dr. Clare Liddy, a family physician, and Dr. Erin Keely, an endocrinologist, who teamed up to create an award-winning new electronic consultation process.

“Both family physicians and specialists have been approaching us. They were asking how to sign up for eConsult,” explained Dr. Liddy. “What started with five specialty services has now expanded to 54. We went from months of waiting on a consult, to two days, on average.”

The service is expanding rapidly and people are taking notice. The Ontario Medical Association recently recognized Drs. Liddy and Keely for their innovative work. And Ontario health minister Dr. Eric Hoskins presented the eConsult team with the Honour Roll award during last week’s Health Quality Transformation conference.

The Champlain BASE eConsult service – supported by technology from the Champlain Local Health Integration Network – enables quick communication between family doctors and specialists.

“Over coffee, Erin and I were talking about how bad wait times are,” said Dr. Liddy, adding that patients sometimes wait six to nine months to see a specialist. “Patients get frustrated because, by the end of their wait, their blood work and other tests are out of date.”

The eConsult service makes it easy for doctors to get short questions answered by specialists quickly, improving family doctor, specialist and patient experience. Family doctors can now send questions to specialists on a secure online platform, and the specialists can respond also via computer. So far, it’s been used in over 4,600 cases – 41 percent of which led to a referral being avoided. “The 41 percent means a lot to us,” Dr. Liddy explained.

“This innovative eConsultation service provides easier access to specialist advice and reduces wait-times,” explained Chantale LeClerc, CEO of the Champlain LHIN. “It helps advance to our key result area of more people receiving quality, evidence-based care.”

The latest award was part of the Minister’s Medal Honouring Excellence in Health Quality and Safety, which is an annual program designed to recognize health-care partners who work collaboratively to put patients in the centre of the circle of care and promote system value through quality. The program also provides an opportunity to share and spread successes across regions and settings.

Here’s what some primary care physicians said about eConsult:

  • “Efficient, speedy and reassuring. My patient was surprised about the technology and how quickly a response was obtained. Thank you!”
  • “Very fast response. Avoided referral to a dermatologist and travel to another town for an elderly patient.”
  • “It is so great to have reassurance of a specialist that our course of action is adequate and no further action needs to be taken. It provides us with enough confidence to expand our scope of practice without worrying about quality of care provided. Thank you for this support.”

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