Online physician consultation improves access to care in correctional settings

August 10, 2022

Access to online physician consultation improves access to care in correctional settings

While most people don’t consider the complexity of coordinating medical care for corrections, access to advice from a specialist is both complex and important for detainees. Online physician consultation using eConsults is one-way the justice-involved population receives timely and appropriate care. eConsults allow onsite providers – physicians, advanced practitioners and nurses – to request expert advice from specialists to diagnose and treat patients.

Why the justice-involved population presents unique challenges to care providers?

Just like in the community care setting, correctional facilities offer eConsults to reduce travel, lower costs and avoid escalating symptoms. However, the population being served differs from the community care setting in many ways:

  • Detainees are often only in the facility for a short period of time
  • Security and transportation are often difficult to arrange
  • Access to specialists is limited by location
  • Equipment and supplies to diagnose and treat patients are not located on-premises

Why do correctional providers request an online physician consultation, or eConsult?

Providers in jails, prisons and other correctional sites turn to eConsults to:

  • Make certain patients receive appropriate care
  • Protect the local community, correctional staff and providers by providing more care onsite
  • Reducing the need for offsite transport and for diagnosis and treatment that can be managed onsite with the support of a specialist’s advice
  • Obtain specialty care guidance related to testing and test prioritization.

Since onsite staff might not know the projected length of stay of a particular detainee obtaining advice from a specialist can expedite care before the detainee leaves the facility. Patients might unexpectedly be released from custody by bailing out, transferred to another facility, transferred to another jurisdiction for trial or released back to the community.

What are the benefits of eConsults?

The unique advantage of eConsults is that the patient receives faster specialty care to avoid waiting weeks or months to see a community specialist – if a community specialist is available in the area.  Online physician consultation can help prevent multiple or unnecessary visits for offsite care for evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. eConsults often include recommendations that enable more efficient care when an offsite visit is needed by offering guidance about appropriate testing required before seeing a specialist face-to-face.

eConsults also lessen the disruption of care. Once released, a detainee might return to their home hours from the location of the correctional facility, making follow-up care uncertain. The detainee might not have medical insurance to cover follow-up care once released. Or, the detainee might be transferred to another jurisdiction at any time during their incarceration due to having criminal charges elsewhere. Online physician consultation can provide the patient with a diagnosis and treatment plan that is useful in all of these scenarios – increasing the likelihood that treatment continues at home or in another facility.

While many of us don’t consider the complexity of coordinating specialty care in correctional settings, access to advice from a specialist is both complex and important. Online physician consultation using eConsults is one-way the justice-involved population receives timely and appropriate care. eConsults allow onsite providers – physicians, advanced practitioners and nurses – to request expert advice from specialists to diagnose and treat patients.

Why the justice-involved population presents unique challenges to care providers?

Just like in the community care setting, correctional facilities offer eConsults to reduce travel, lower costs and avoid escalating symptoms. However, the population being served differs from the community care setting in many ways:

  • Detainees are often only in the facility for a short period of time
  • Security and transportation are often difficult to arrange
  • Access to specialists is limited by location
  • Equipment and supplies to diagnose and treat patients are not located on-premises

Why do correctional providers request an online physician consultation, or eConsult?

Providers in jails, prisons and other correctional sites turn to eConsults to:

  • Make certain patients receive appropriate care
  • Protect the local community, correctional staff and providers by providing more care onsite
  • Reducing the need for offsite transport and for diagnosis and treatment that can be managed onsite with the support of a specialist’s advice
  • Obtain specialty care guidance related to testing and test prioritization.

Since onsite staff might not know the projected length of stay of a particular detainee obtaining advice from a specialist can expedite care before the detainee leaves the facility. Patients might unexpectedly be released from custody by bailing out, being transferred to another facility, transferred to another jurisdiction for trial or simply released back to the community.

What are the benefits of eConsults?

The unique advantage of eConsults is that the patient receives faster specialty care to avoid waiting weeks or months to see a community specialist – if a community specialist is even available in the area.  Online physician consultation can help prevent multiple or unnecessary visits for offsite care for evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. eConsults often include recommendations that enable more efficient care when an offsite visit is needed by offering guidance about appropriate testing required before seeing a specialist face-to-face.

eConsults also lessen the disruption of care. Once released a detainee might return to his or her home hours from the location of the correctional facility, making follow-up care uncertain. The detainee might not have medical insurance to cover follow-up care once released. Or, the detainee might be transferred to another jurisdiction at any time during his or her incarceration due to having criminal charges elsewhere. Online physician consultation can provide the patient with a diagnosis and treatment plan that is useful in all of these scenarios – increasing the likelihood that treatment continues at home or in another facility.

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