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2022-12-21

How do phone consultations compare to email consultations in Ontario?

For Family Doctors and Nurse Practitioners in Ontario who need access to specialists, email-based eConsults and phone-based Virtual Hallway are both secure and free-to-use solutions.

Most importantly, each tool helps primary care providers keep patients off the wait list and deliver better, faster and often life-saving outcomes to patients.

When considering which tool to best suited for each case, it's helpful to consider the ways in which they are unique. This will help primary care providers determine which one might be the best fit for their working preferences and patient needs.

Email-based consults

Email-based consultations are a long-standing and widely adopted solution that recreates aspects of a live, hallway-style consultation. The asynchronous nature of emails is helpful in many contexts and many clinics and hospitals have integrated it into their standard workflows.

Benefits of email-based consultation through eConsult include:

  • Familiarity. Many people already understand how to use it. This is helpful for those who aren't as tech-savvy or interested in trying out a new tool.
  • Choice. At the moment, it may be easier to find a specific type of specialist or sub-specialist through well-established eConsult networks. Is there a specific speciality or specialist you'd like to see on Virtual Hallway? Let us know at [email protected]
  • Convenience for less complex, less time-specific cases. Some questions are relatively straightforward, routine or do not require certainty around when a response might arrive. These cases are asked and answered fairly easily through email.

Did you know: in Ontario, 40% of eConsults avoided an unnecessary referral and 60% do not require an in-person followup visit. Source.

Phone-based consults

Discussing a patient’s case with a colleague in a clinic or hospital hallway is the original gold-standard in patient-specific medical consultation and knowledge sharing. Phone-based consultations allow primary care providers to experience the benefits of a “hallway”-style conversation outside the confines of their immediate network, clinic or hospital.

Virtual Hallway brings ease and convenience to this approach with technology aligned to CMPA guidelines, modern clinic workflow and billing criteria.

Benefits of phone-based consultations through Virtual Hallway include:

  • In-depth answers. Live conversations offer detailed insights in a short amount of time. This is especially useful for more complex, less routine cases.
  • Simple consult requests. Communicating detailed context in a live conversation is easy, reducing the need to write it all out in the consult request.
  • Personal and collegial. The engaging nature of a live, problem-solving discussion is energizing and can help foster new, meaningful professional relationships.
  • Answers on a schedule. Primary care providers choose the time of the consultation so they know when they will have their answer. This can help plan follow up next steps with a patient. One family doctor in Ontario described this as, “I pick up the call [from the specialist] with a question and hang up with an answer.”
  • Easy billing and documentation. For qualifying primary care providers, OHIP reimburses phone consultations at $31.25, nearly twice the rate of email-based consultations. Virtual Hallway bills on behalf of the primary care provider. When the specialist submits consult documentation via the Virtual Hallway platform the primary care provider has the option to have that report automatically faxed or emails to their office.

Did you know: in Nova Scotia, 84% of phone consultation through Virtual Hallway helped a patient avoid a specialist waitlist entirely. Source.

Conclusion

Email and phone-based consultations are both important tools that help primary care providers provide better, faster often life-saving patient care. Consider your patient case and personal preferences when determining which tool is the best fit:

  • eConsult is a familiar email-based tool in Ontario. It offers more speciality choice at the moment and can work well for more routine consultations with less complexity.
  • Virtual Hallway phone-based consultations consultations are personal, offer worry-free billing and documentation and can work well for less routine consultations.
See How Virtual Hallway can help your practice today!
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