Rapid implementation of Inpatient eConsult Programme addresses new challenges for patient care during COVID-19 pandemic

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Introduction At the early epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis in the USA, our institution saw a surge in the demand for inpatient consultations for areas impacted by COVID-19 (eg, infectious diseases, nephrology, palliative care) and shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). We aimed to provide timely specialist input for consult requests during the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing an Inpatient eConsult Programme. Methods We used the reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation and maintenance implementation science framework and run chart analysis to evaluate the reach, adoption and maintenance of the Inpatient eConsult Programme compared with traditional in-person consults. We solicited qualitative feedback from frontline physicians and specialists for programme improvements. Results During the study period, there were 46 available in-person consult orders and 21 new eConsult orders. At the peak of utilisation, 42% of all consult requests were eConsults, and by the end of the study period, utilisation fell to 20%. Qualitative feedback revealed subspecialties best suited for eConsults (infectious diseases, nephrology, haematology, endocrinology) and influenced improvements to the ordering workflow, documentation, billing and education regarding use. Discussion When offered inpatient eConsult requests as an alternative to in-person consults in the context of a surge in patients with COVID-19, frontline physicians used eConsult requests and decreased use of in-person consults. As the demand for consults decreased and PPE shortages were no longer a major concern, eConsult utilisation decreased, revealing a preference for in-person consultations when possible. Conclusions Lessons learnt can be used to develop and implement inpatient eConsults to meet context-specific challenges at other institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-277
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Innovations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • access and evaluation
  • health care quality
  • health services research
  • hospital medicine
  • infectious disease medicine
  • information science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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