LOS ANGELES – L.A. Care Health Plan announced today that its eConsult platform, an electronic primary care-to-specialist consultation and referral system, has successfully launched and completed its first patient consults for dermatology and neurology specialties.
A collaborative initiative with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS), and MedPOINT Management under the leadership of L.A. Care Health Plan, eConsult radically transforms how specialty care will be provided in Los Angeles County.
Through this innovative Web-enabled system and process, primary care providers and specialty physicians are able to communicate, share clinical information and consult electronically to better coordinate patient care. The system also processes referral requests and authorizations if a face-to-face, patient-to-specialist visit is required, thus reducing the specialty referral and appointment process to a few days and increasing the speed with which patient’s care is delivered. For the primary care providers and their staff, the benefit also includes using a single web portal (eConsultLA.net) across both DHS and HCLA networks, instead of accessing multiple and disparate referral systems.
“eConsult is already improving access to care by reducing unnecessary specialist visits and cutting wait times,” said Howard Kahn, CEO of L.A. Care Health Plan, the nation’s largest public health plan. “Over time, this program has the potential to dramatically enhance our health care delivery system, expand access to specialty care and improve the quality of care for millions of patients.”
Dr. Samuel Oregel and Dr. Tammy P. Miller, of Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, are the first doctors to use the eConsult platform. Dr. Miller’s immediate reaction was, “I love eConsult! It enables me to have an ongoing dialogue with the specialist in a timely manner. I believe this new process will go a long way in helping with our referral backlog.”
L.A. Care has long been in the forefront of developing health information technology tools such as eConsult that improve access to care, improve health outcomes and should be available to healthcare providers, including those who serve low-income individuals and families. In 2011, L.A. Care concluded an 18 month eConsult pilot that showed a 25% to 48% reduction in the need for face to face specialty care visits.
“eConsult is a new way of providing specialty care and represents one of L.A. Care’s efforts to transform healthcare delivery in Los Angeles County,” said Sajid Ahmed, Director of Health IT and Innovations at L.A. Care and eConsult Project Lead.
“The Department of Health Services is excited to be part of the innovative trend to improve the patient experience,” said Dr. Alexander Li, Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Ambulatory Care Network. “eConsult enables our primary care providers and specialists to communicate directly and manage a patient’s non-urgent needs without a face-to-face visit, and can shorten the wait time if a specialist appointment is needed.”
The initial group of clinical sites using eConsult include the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center, QueensCare’s Eastside Family Clinic, Tarzana Treatment Centers’ Northridge facility, Venice Family Clinic, Northeast Valley Health Corporation, Saban Free Clinic and The Children’s Clinic. A total of 53 clinic sites, which includes all of DHS primary care facilities, will be using eConsult by the end of this year.
L.A. Care’s long-term vision is to help all L.A. County safety net providers implement and use the eConsult platform, as a common platform with common standards. The success of eConsult will result in bringing stakeholders and organizations together to advance health information exchange and telehealth.
“The efforts by L.A. Care and its partners across Los Angeles County will bring the concepts of health information exchange and electronic data availability into ‘real world’ application,” said Pamela Lane, Deputy Secretary of the Health Information Exchange at the California Health & Human Services Agency. “This is a tremendous value-added proposition for patients, providers and those who pay for specialty consultations, bringing new workflow and vision to the care environment.”
L.A. Care’s eConsult project partners include: L.A. County Department of Health Services, MedPOINT Management, Health Care LA Independent Physicians Association and the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County. More information about eConsult and the Safety Net eConsult Program in Los Angeles is available at www.eConsultLA.com and at www.lacare.org.
L.A. Care contracted with Safety Net Connect, a technology and business process solutions provider, to develop an enterprise eConsult platform. Through a competitive request for proposal process, L.A. Care contracted with service partners COPE Health Solutions, Object Health, and E2O Health to provide workflow redesign and training at clinic sites.