Identifying Content Themes in Primary Care Physician and Rheumatologist Communications Within Electronic Consultations: A Qualitative Study

Jeanie Lee, Sharon Rikin, Ruchi Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Electronic consultation (eConsult) communications between primary care physicians (PCPs) and rheumatologists may reveal common knowledge gaps and educational opportunities. The aim of our study was to identify content themes in PCP questions and rheumatology recommendations through analysis of eConsult and the need for rheumatology appointments and facilitated urgent visits post-eConsult. Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study involving qualitative and quantitative analysis of rheumatology eConsults in a single center was performed from May 1, 2019, to January 9, 2020. Conventional content analysis was used to derive content themes in PCP questions and rheumatology recommendations. We evaluated the proportion of eConsults, which included a need for rheumatology appointments and expedited visits through frequency counts. Results: Among 120 rheumatology eConsults, six PCP questions and five rheumatology recommendation content themes were identified. The most common PCP question themes were the following: 1) joint pain, 2) suspected rheumatic disease differential, and 3) abnormal laboratory tests. The most common rheumatology recommendation or teaching themes were the following: 1) education on differential diagnoses of rheumatic diseases, 2) education on the specific rheumatic disease, and 3) laboratory test interpretation. The majority of eConsults (82%) recommended a subsequent rheumatology appointment, and 27% facilitated an expedited appointment. Conclusion: In this analysis of eConsults, we identified common knowledge gaps in PCPs and rheumatology educational topics, including differentiating inflammatory from noninflammatory arthritis, using caution in interpreting abnormal laboratory tests without clinical manifestations, managing chronic gout, evaluating elevated creatine phosphokinase levels, and differentiating C-reactive protein (CRP) from high-sensitivity CRP. Timely feedback through eConsult recommendations may allow for focused educational opportunities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)715-722
Number of pages8
JournalACR Open Rheumatology
Volume3
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology

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