Reducing patient wait times improves access to care and practice performance.
One of the most severe consequences of the ongoing difficulties with specialty care access is a substantial increase in wait times among patients seeking a specialist appointment. The increase in appointment wait times increases the risk of avoidable complications and shifts the healthcare industry from proactive to reactive care, which is less effective and more costly for all parties involved. Further, while waiting for appointments, patients often seek care in less appropriate and more costly settings such as the emergency room—and indeed, a recent study notes that as many as 71% of emergency room visits are unnecessary and avoidable.
Efforts to streamline delivery of care have spurred an increasing prevalence of value-based payment arrangements, and primary care—the linchpin and front line of care—has emerged as a major catalyst for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare. Functioning as an effective primary intervention, primary care supports reduced wait times by optimizing time and place of care to treat a greater percentage of lower acuity patients, freeing up specialist queues for higher acuity patients.
Primary care can also help better prepare high acuity patients in need of a face-to-face specialist appointment for a more effective and efficient visit.
But in order to maximize the potential impact primary care can have on improving access, PCPs should be empowered with solutions to assist them in providing the most comprehensive care possible within the most appropriate setting.
Telehealth solutions such as eConsults can support this drive toward more efficient care by increasing access to specialists and facilitating improved care coordination. eConsults are an electronic form of asynchronous peer-to-peer collaboration, providing PCPs with a platform to consult with specialists on specific patient cases. eConsult interaction occurs using a secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging platform, and specialist guidance is typically received within 24 hours, drastically reducing the interim time between referral and treatment.