Demand for specialist services is increasing and health care services internationally have responded to increasing demand for timely, better-coordinated complex care by trialling electronic consultation systems (eConsult), which provide a way for GPs and their patients to access specialist input without requiring a face-to-face consultation.1 Significantly reduced wait times for specialist input and substantial avoidance of face-to-face hospital visits are established outcomes of the eConsult approach.

CHSRI is conducting research to investigate the impact of an asynchronous online eConsult process linking GPs managing patients with complex chronic disease in Western Queensland with an online general physician, skilled broadly in chronic disease management.

To achieve this objective, the research builds on existing partnerships between the research team and Queensland Health (QH), the Western Queensland Primary Health Network (WQPHN), the Mater Hospital in Brisbane and the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA).

The research has four aims. To investigate the impact of the eConsult model on:

  1. Health service delivery outcomes (e.g. time to specialist input, % of outpatient visits avoided, % potentially preventable hospitalisations and ED presentations avoided)
  2. Providers’ experiences
  3. Patients’ experiences of care
  4. Healthcare costs

These aims align with the Quadruple Aim approach, increasingly used for health services evaluations, which recommends initiatives simultaneously pursue four dimensions of performance when translating new models of service delivery: improving health outcomes, reducing costs, enhancing patients’ experience and improving the work life of providers.2

1Liddy C, Moroz I, Mihan A, Nawar N, Keely E. A Systematic Review of Asynchronous, Provider-to-Provider, Electronic Consultation Services to Improve Access to Specialty Care Available Worldwide. Telemed e-Health 2018: doi:10.1089/tmj.2018.0005.

2Tuot D, Liddy C, Vimalananda VG, et al. Evaluating diverse electronic consultation programs with a common framework. BMC Health Services Research 2018; 18(1): 1-11.