Posted on 24 Oct, 2022 in
Implementing a general practitioner-to-general physician eConsult service (eConsultant) in Australia.
The use of electronic consultations (eConsult) in Australia has become an alternative option for General Practitioners (GPs) to seek advice from specialists, especially in instances where patients experience long wait times. This method provides secure, timely communication between GPs and specialists, reducing the burden on patients who require specialist attention. In Queensland, an evaluation was conducted to track the adoption of eConsultants in two primary health networks, Western Queensland and Brisbane South, to identify key barriers and enablers to adoption and improve the implementation strategy. The study’s findings showed that of the 40 practices invited to take part, 20 enrolled, and 38 of the 97 GPs who consented sent at least one Request for Advice (RFA) to the eConsultant, with 112 RFA sent in total.
The implementation was mostly guided by eight strategies, and semi-structured interviews conducted with 11 GPs and 4 stakeholders highlighted that the eConsultant service supported outpatient appointment avoidance and provided efficient, timely access to specialist support for GPs and their patients. However, two main factors were slowing implementation; incompatible digital infrastructure used across the health system and the need to keep the service ‘front of mind’ in the busy general practice setting. A universally accepted digital solution for the eConsultant service and an effective engagement approach were recommended to overcome these barriers. The study also recommended expanding the eConsultant service to other specialties to increase opportunities for GPs to use the service more regularly, keeping the service ‘front of mind’ and increasing the likelihood of it being the first option in appropriate clinical situations.
The study demonstrated that eConsultant services may provide efficient, timely access to specialist support for GPs and their patients, especially in instances where patients experience long wait times. However, it is essential to address the barriers and enablers to the adoption of eConsultant services for successful implementation. A universally accepted digital solution, expanding the eConsultant service to other specialties, and an effective engagement approach are strategies that can promote ongoing engagement with eConsultant. These strategies can help increase the adoption of the eConsultant service by GPs and practices, leading to improved access to specialist input for patients without the need for travel and long wait times.
Job J, Nicholson C, Calleja Z, Jackson C, Donald M. Implementing a general practitioner-to-general physician eConsult service (eConsultant) in Australia. BMC Health Serv Res. 2022 Oct 24;22(1):1278. doi: 10.1186/s12913-022-08663-2. PMID: 36280832; PMCID: PMC9589630.