Clinical Trends Over the First Year of a Psychiatric Electronic Consult Service

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Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry




Department of Psychiatry


access, consultation liaison, diagnosis, electronic consultation, evaluation, primary care


BACKGROUND: Electronic consultations (e-consultations) offer rapid, direct, and documented communication through the electronic medical record between primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists. Psychiatric e-consultations are increasingly being implemented across hospital networks with the recommendation for face-to-face psychiatric evaluation periodically being made by the consulted psychiatrist. It remains to be seen what clinical factors lead the consultant to make this type of recommendation and whether the question asked by the PCP and the diagnosis of the patient has any bearing. OBJECTIVES: To determine which psychiatric diagnoses are most commonly electronically consulted on, what types of questions are being asked by primary care providers to electronically consulted psychiatrists, and what questions and which diagnoses result in an electronically consulted psychiatrist to recommend further in-person evaluation. METHODS: A retrospective chart review of an e-consultation service was conducted. One hundred sixty-four charts were reviewed. Data were collected on the psychiatric diagnosis, type of question posed by the PCP to the psychiatrist, the number of recommendations for an in-person evaluation made, and the percentages of the diagnoses and questions that were associated with a recommendation for in-person evaluation. RESULTS: Two hundred twenty-three diagnoses were consulted on. The most common diagnoses were anxiety disorders (34.5%, N = 77), depressive disorders (32.3%, N = 72), and bipolar disorders (13.5%, N = 30). One hundred eighty-one questions were asked by PCPs. One hundred fifty-one (83.4%) questions regarded pharmacological management. Of the 164 charts, 40 (24.4%) e-consultations resulted in the psychiatrist recommending an in-person evaluation. The in-person evaluation recommendation rates did not change with increasing provider familiarity as the inaugural year went on. Three (7.5%) patients who were recommended for an outpatient psychiatry evaluation were scheduled to be seen by the consulted psychiatrist. Depressive (N = 12) and anxiety disorders (N = 13) were both recommended for in-person follow-up 17% of the time. Bipolar disorder was recommended for follow-up 53% (N = 16) of the time. Of the 181 question types posed by PCPs, 34 (22.5%) pharmacological management questions were recommended for in-person follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: Certain diagnoses and question types appear to influence the likelihood that an electronically consulted psychiatrist will recommend a face-to-face evaluation. It also suggests that e-consultation services can be particularly serviceable for certain diagnoses, that is, depression and anxiety, as well as certain question types, that is, pharmacological management. This information can guide PCPs and psychiatrists about which patients are best suited for an e-consultation versus an in-person referral from the outset.



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