Adopting innovation in gynaecology: The introduction of e-consult.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To describe the development of an e-consultation service as part of the triaging and grading process of referrals and to report on the efficacy and safety of such a service.

METHODS

All gynaecology e-consults in the study period June 2015 to March 2016 were retrospectively reviewed. The outcomes of interest were the initial reduction in first face-to-face hospital visits, and the rate of re-referrals. Acute admission for the same reason, a subsequent diagnosis of underlying (pre)-malignancy, or patient death from the condition related to the index referral were selected as measures for patient safety.

RESULTS

Seven thousand and forty-two (7042) referrals were made to the gynaecology service in the 10 month study period. After exclusion of referrals to colposcopy and the early pregnancy clinic, 4738 e-referrals remained. Of these, 1013 referrals (21.4%) were triaged for an e-consult. One hundred and forty-seven patients (14.5%) with an initial e-consult were re-referred within 6 months for the same condition. The reduction in face-to-face contacts was 18.2% (866/4738). No death and/or acute admission for the same reason as stated in the initial referral occurred among the patients with e-consultation and none were later diagnosed with an underlying (pre)-malignancy.

CONCLUSION

E-consultation was effective at reducing the number of first outpatient face-to-face contacts without notable compromise of the quality of care or patient safety. E-consultation allows specialists to provide expert clinical guidance, management and support to the referring provider when appropriate. Topics for further study include patient benefits and satisfaction, and further assessment of the social, economic and financial impacts on all parties involved.

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