Cardiac e-consults may be an effective way to deliver value-oriented outpatient cardiology care in an accountable care organization. Initial results of cardiac e-consults have demonstrated high satisfaction among both patients and referring providers, no known adverse events, and low rates of diagnostic testing. Nevertheless, differences between e-consults and traditional consults, effects of e-consults on traditional consult volume, and whether patients seek traditional consults after e-consults are unknown.Methods and results
We established a cardiac e-consult program on January 13, 2014. We then conducted detailed medical record reviews of all patients with e-consults to detect any adverse clinical events and detect subsequent traditional visits to cardiologists. We also performed 2 comparisons. First, we compared age, gender, and referral reason for e-consults vs traditional consults. Second, we compared changes in volume of referrals to cardiology vs other medical specialties that did not have e-consults. From January 13 to December 31, 2014, 1,642 traditional referrals and 165 e-consults were requested. The proportion of e-consults of all evaluations requested over that period was 9.1%. Gender balance was similar among traditional consults and e-consults (44.8% male for e-consults vs 45.0% for traditional consults, P = .981). E-consult patients were younger than traditional consult patients (55.3 vs 60.4 years, P < .001). After the introduction of cardiac e-consults, the increase in traditional cardiac visit requests was less than the increase in traditional visit requests for control specialties (4.5% vs 10.1%, P < .001). For e-consults with at least 6 months of follow-up, 75.6% patients did not have any type of traditional cardiology visit during the follow-up period.Conclusion
E-consults are an effective and safe mechanism to enhance value in outpatient cardiology care, with low rates of bounceback to traditional consults. E-consults can account for nearly one-tenth of total outpatient consultation volume at 1 year within an accountable care organization and are associated with a reduction in traditional referrals to cardiologists.