Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Study on Safety Net Connect’s eConsult System Reveals Significant Increase in Timely Access to Specialty Care

Longitudinal study finds eConsult a sustainable intervention for improving access to specialist care for underserved patients

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.--()--Safety Net Connect (SNC), a leading provider of innovative healthcare technology for organizations assisting underserved populations, is pleased to announce that results from a new study by Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LADHS) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health find that the electronic consultation or “eConsult” system developed by SNC is a promising and sustainable intervention for improving access to specialty care for underserved patients. The study, which was published in the March 2017 issue of Health Affairs, examines gaps in the current literature on electronic consultation systems and is the first large-scale, longitudinal study of its kind.

“Our results provide some of the first evidence on population-level patterns of specialist utilization in a health system with a mature, large-scale eConsult system,” says Paul Giboney, director of specialty care at LADHS. “The implementation of this system suggests that even in a large, underserved urban population, specialty access is not an intractable problem, and that a shift in the model for specialty care can provide rapid electronic input for thousands of patients in need.”

The results showed a sustainable long-term improvement over the 3.5 year study period in specialty care access within LADHS’s complex healthcare system, which includes thousands of physicians and a population of 670,000 patients:

  • The median time to an electronic response from a specialist was one day
  • 25 percent of eConsults were resolved without needing a specialty visit

An additional finding of the study supports the cost-effectiveness of eConsult for traditionally underfunded safety net providers, as the median time to a specialist appointment decreased over the study period without the need for LADHS to increase specialist staffing.

How eConsult Works. SNC's eConsult technology facilitates a convenient online connection between primary care providers (PCPs) and specialists. When PCPs send a secure request for a specialist consult, integrated decision support and referral guidelines help ensure all of the necessary information is provided - allowing for a more qualified peer-to-peer consultation. In many cases specialty guidance provided via eConsult eliminates the need for a specialist visit. For patients who are referred to a specialist, appointment wait times are decreased and the initial visits are more informed.

“We are excited by the results of this groundbreaking study, and are honored to partner with LADHS in our joint mission to eliminate disparities and ensure high quality care for all patients,” said Chris Cruttenden, President of SNC.

The study was authored by Michael L. Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and an instructor in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Hal F. Yee Jr., Chief Medical Officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services; Ateev Mehrotra, Associate Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; and Paul Giboney, Director of Specialty Care at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. The study was supported by the California Health Care Foundation and the Blue Shield Foundation of California. To read the study, please visit: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/36/3/492.abstract?=right.

About Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LADHS) is the second largest municipal health system in the nation. The LADHS mission is to ensure access to high-quality, patient-centered, cost-effective health care to Los Angeles County residents through direct services at DHS facilities and through collaboration with community and university partners. For more information, please visit www.dhs.lacounty.gov.

About Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan School teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health. For more information, please visit www.hsph.harvard.edu.

About Safety Net Connect

Since 2009, Safety Net Connect (SNC) has partnered with public and private organizations to provide a multitude of successful and nationally recognized web-based healthcare solutions for underserved and safety net populations. SNC’s innovative solutions have reached over 5 million patients from clients such as Los Angeles Department of Health Services (LADHS), MedPoint, LA Care, Orange County Healthcare Agency, CalOptima, San Diego Healthcare Agency, and Cook County MHN (an Illinois Medicaid Project). For more information, please visit www.safetynetconnect.com.

Contacts

SNC Media Contact:
Kristine Nash-Wong
734-904-4137
kristine.nash.wong@safetynetconnect.com

Release Summary

Longitudinal study reveals Safety Net Connect eConsult system significantly increased timely access to specialty care for Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Contacts

SNC Media Contact:
Kristine Nash-Wong
734-904-4137
kristine.nash.wong@safetynetconnect.com