Like many non-profit Federally Qualified Health Centers that work with underserved patient populations, NCHS faces significant challenges in obtaining specialty care services for its patients. Research starkly illustrates the difficulty that Medicaid/Medi-Cal and Medicare patients in 15 major U.S. cities, including San Diego, face in accessing specialty care services. For example, the survey found that in San Diego, these patients endure longer wait times (18 days) for appointments with an Orthopedic Surgeon than any of the other 14 cities surveyed. In another example, only 10% of the San Diego Dermatologists surveyed actually accepted Medicaid/Medi-Cal patients.
At NCHS, demand for specialty care services average between 2,500 and 3,000 referrals per month, but only about 35% of these patients ever end up obtaining that service for a number of reasons that include affordability, access and geography. Often, this leads to the patients not receiving the level of care they require.
Given the difficulty of connecting our patients directly to specialists, Dr. Denise Gomez and Dr. Patrick Tellez hit upon an ingenious solution: develop an online specialist consultation platform (eConsults). These innovative thinking providers partnered with San Diego-based AristaMD to collaborate, test and market a platform that brings primary care physicians and specialists together. “Essentially, using our platform, NCHS’s primary care physicians can share their clinic notes with specialists participating in the AristaMD network. They can remotely provide the NCHS primary care physicians with specialty consults, providing their expertise at the time of the visit that lead to better care and outcomes for their patients.” – AristaMD CEO, Brook LeVasseur
To date, 72% of NCHS’ eConsults have replaced a specialist visit, and 91% have influenced the care provided to the patient; this is much higher than the national average of 25%. Due to NCHS’ significantly higher levels of success with eConsult, NCHS proposes to expand and increase the use of AristaMD amongst all NCHS providers. “The results have exceeded our expectations in terms of the ease of adopting AristaMD’s service into the primary care workflow and the outcomes we are witnessing with our patients.” – Dr. Patrick Tellez.
NCHS is committed to meeting the needs of our patients and utilizing innovative solutions to continue to achieve its mission; to improve the health status of our diverse communities by providing quality healthcare that is comprehensive, affordable, and culturally sensitive.
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