HARTFORD, Conn. – A $20,000 grant from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is helping the Value Care Alliance, a collaboration of health care systems in Connecticut, test a telehealth platform for specialty consults through three of its member outpatient clinics.
Data collected through the pilot will reveal whether implementing the Community eConsult Network at all VCA clinics is an effective and efficient way to give patients access to specialty providers.
“The grant gives us an opportunity to expand health care into new and different practice settings,” said Dr. Daren Anderson, director of the Weitzman Institute, one of the partners of the Community eConsult Network.
The consults make it easier for patients to access specialty providers and care by providing their primary care providers with quick remote access to a network of board-certified specialists. The specialists can provide medical opinions through a secure telehealth platform.
As part of the consults, patient information is sent to a secure hub then on to the specialist, who reads the data and makes a recommendation. The specialist enters the recommendation back into the hub for insight and action by the PCP.
“Telehealth is really the expectation of more and more people,” said Dr. Russell Munson, medical director of Harvard Pilgrim Connecticut. “For home care, it is more important because the patient is usually not mobile enough to see a specialist in person.”
A study by the Weitzman Institute, the research and innovation arm of Community Health Center, Inc., demonstrated significant value from eConsults, Anderson said. Over the past five years, between 60-90% of specialty consultations were resolved by eConsults in two days or less.
“We’re thrilled these organizations are forward-thinking enough to pilot this program,” said Munson. “I’m sure it’s controversial for the specialists, but it’s the newest thing on the horizon.”