Offering eConsult to Family Physicians With Patients on a Pain Clinic Wait List: An Outreach Exercise

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Wait times for many chronic pain programs in Canada range from 6 months to 2 years. This project sought to determine the interest of primary care providers (PCPs) in using an electronic consult system for patient(s) waiting for a pain consultation. This cross-sectional study was conducted at the pain clinic of a Canadian tertiary academic health sciences center. Participants were PCPs who had submitted a referral to this clinic. Referrals received between April 1, 2012, and March 31, 2014, were reviewed to determine their appropriateness for eConsult, and a letter providing information about eConsult and encouraging its use was sent to the referring PCP. Of the 585 referrals that were reviewed, 227 were appropriate for eConsult. Fifty-one (26%) of the 194 PCP responses received were positive. Technologies like eConsult may help address the growing demand for specialist advice. In addition to facilitating response to specific questions, the bidirectional nature of eConsult permits its use for educating PCPs about chronic pain treatment. Given that almost one third of responding PCPs indicated an interest in eConsult, its potential reach is vast. Additional study is needed to understand barriers to PCP acceptance and use of eConsult and the uptake of advice given.

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