Innovative Use Of Electronic Consultations In Preoperative Anesthesiology Evaluation At VA Medical Centers In New England
Author: Melissa K. Afable, Gouri Gupte, Steven R. Simon, Jessica Shanahan, Varsha Vimalananda, Eun Ji Kim, Judith Strymish, Jay D. Orlander
Electronic consultations (e-consults) improve access to specialty care without requiring face-to-face patient visits. We conducted a mixed-methods descriptive study to understand the variability in e-consult use across anesthesiology departments in the Veterans Affairs New England Healthcare System (VANEHS). In the period 2012–15, the system experienced a rapid increase in the use of anesthesiology e-consults: 5,023 were sent in 2015, compared with 103 in 2012. Uptake across sites varied from near-universal use of e-consults for preoperative assessment to use for only selected low-risk patients or no use. Interviews with stakeholders revealed considerable differences in the perceived impact of e-consults on workflow and patient-centeredness. Clinicians at sites with high use of e-consults noted that they improved workflow efficiency. In comparison, clinicians at sites with low use preferentially valued face-to-face visits for some or all patients. The adoption of a health information technology innovation can alter the process of care delivery, depending on perceptions of its value by key stakeholders.