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E-consults: an effective way to decrease clinic wait times in rheumatology.

Patel V, Stewart D, Horstman MJ. E-consults: an effective way to decrease clinic wait times in rheumatology. BMC rheumatology. 2020 Oct 15; 4:54.

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Background: To evaluate the effect of E-consults on wait times and resource utilization for positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) referrals in outpatient rheumatology. Methods: We conducted a pre-post study of E-consult implementation for positive ANA referrals. We retrospectively reviewed "positive ANA" referrals from 1/2015-3/2017. A statistical process control chart was created to display monthly average wait times for in-person clinic visits and to identify special cause variation. Final diagnoses, wait times and resource utilization were recorded and compared between E-consults and in-person referrals. Results: There were 139 referrals for positive ANA with 126 occurring after E-consult implementation in August 2015. Forty-four percent (55/126) of referrals were E-consults; 76% did not have an in-person visit after initial electronic rheumatology recommendation. A control chart demonstrated special cause variation in the form of a shift from June 2016 - January 2017, suggesting a temporal association between decreased wait times and the implementation of E-consults. Eleven patients were diagnosed with ANA-associated rheumatic disease; the majority of patients (73%, 86/139) did not have a rheumatologic diagnosis. Overall E-consults utilized more labs than in-person visits, but this was not statistically significant. In-person visits utilized more imaging studies, which was statistically significant. Conclusion: E-consults are an effective way to address positive ANA consults without significant increase in resource utilization and were temporally associated with decreased wait times for in-person visits.

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