3 Ways eConsults Reduce Costs and Improve the Quality of Healthcare

March 26, 2018

3 ways eConsults reduce costs and improve the quality of healthcare

eConsults reduce costs and offer an ideal solution for reducing costs and improving healthcare quality. Healthcare spending is rising, and healthcare organizations focus on improving patient satisfaction scores. These patients are uninsured, underinsured, or often have high-deductible health plans that make them reluctant to visit a specialist. Learn more about three specific ways immediate access to specialty care within the primary care office reduces patient healthcare costs.

In 2016, U.S. healthcare spending increased by 4.3 percent, reaching a high of $3.3 trillion. This cost burden affects everyone across the spectrum of care. One growing trend intended to reduce overall healthcare costs is a shift to high-deductible health plans, with many patients responsible for paying more out-of-pocket costs than ever before. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, consumer out-of-pocket spending rose six times the rate of wages over the past 16 years. Patient out-of-pocket spending now accounts for 30 percent of healthcare revenue.  For instance, a patient is typically responsible for $300 of a $1,000 hospital bill.

Patients with high deductible plans are most likely to avoid seeking the care they need due to expensive out-of-pocket costs. According to the National Health Center for Statistics, almost 40 percent of the population ages 18 to 64 have high deductible health plans. By forgoing necessary care to save money, many patients’ conditions deteriorate to the point where they require a higher degree of care (including hospitalization), resulting in higher out-of-pocket costs and additional costs to payers and health systems. This dynamic is unacceptable and must be addressed within the shift to value-based care.

eConsults offer an ideal solution for patients with this type of coverage, providing immediate access to specialty care in the primary care office without additional out-of-pocket spending. Here are three specific ways in which eConsults are reducing costs for patients:

Increased access to specialty care

New technology now allows for specialists to collaborate with PCPs to remotely diagnose and monitor the health conditions of patients requiring specialty care. Through electronic consults or eConsults, PCPs have access to specialists with whom they can share all relevant patient data and receive care plan recommendations in a matter of hours. Electronic collaboration between providers can deliver more timely access to quality care while avoiding most patients needing to see a specialist in person.

In addition, eConsults are a valuable tool to help ensure that the most severe patient cases are triaged to in-person specialist visits. In contrast, lower acuity patients are safely treated by their PCP with the input of a specialist. This triaging decreases the wait times typically faced when trying to access specialty care while simultaneously increasing the overall access to specialty care.

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eConsults Reduce costs

Access to specialty care within the primary care setting via eConsults supports reducing costs and improving healthcare quality. eConsults allow patients to minimize expensive specialist visits,  costs related to travel and out-of-pocket expenses. Utilizing eConsults in a primary care practice ensures that patients needing specialist input are matched with the most appropriate modality of care, for the right patient, at the right time, decreasing overall healthcare spending and improving patient satisfaction scores.

Improved health outcomes

The days of waiting months for a specialist visit for a longstanding or deteriorating condition are over. PCPs supported by specialists through eConsults lead to near-immediate patient care, which reduces ER visits and subsequent hospitalizations.  This improvement in care reduces patient costs and requires no additional training from PCPs.

As healthcare spending continues to increase, all stakeholders must look at innovative ways to incorporate new solutions into general healthcare practices to alleviate operational costs of care and the out-of-pocket expenses the patient shouldered. eConsults help avoids unnecessary patient costs while ensuring optimal care. Providers utilizing eConsults can deliver quality care with improved efficiency. This provides patient convenience, a key component of patient loyalty, and improves patient satisfaction scores.