Background To evaluate the effect of E-consults on wait times and resource utilization for positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) referrals in outpatient rheumatology.
Methods We conducted a pre-post study of E-consult implementation for positive ANA referrals. We retrospectively reviewed “positive ANA” referrals from 1/2015-3/2017. A statistical process control chart was created to display monthly average wait times for in-person clinic visits and to identify special cause variation. Final Diagnoses, wait times and resource utilization were recorded and compared between E-consults and in-person referrals.
Results There were 139 referrals for positive ANA with 126 occurring after E-consult implementation in August 2015. Forty-four percent (55/126) of referrals were E-consults; 76% were resolved after initial electronic rheumatology recommendation. A control chart demonstrated special cause variation in the form of a shift from June 2016 – January 2017, suggesting a temporal association between decreased wait times and the implementation of E-consults. Eleven patients were diagnosed with ANA-associated rheumatic disease; the majority of patients (73%, 86/139) did not have a rheumatologic diagnosis. Overall E-consults utilized more labs than in-person visits, but this was not statistically significant. In-person visit utilized more imaging studies, which was statistically significant.
Conclusion E-consults are an effective way to address positive ANA consults without significant resource utilization and were temporally associated with decreased wait times for in-person visits.