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CA clinic system embraces online consultations

InformationWeek, August 9, 2011

A major safety-net insurer in Los Angeles is adopting secure online communications to streamline referrals from primary care physicians to medical specialists, in hopes of preventing unnecessary visits and reducing wait times for those truly in need of specialty care. L.A. Care Health Plan, which, with 900,000 mostly low-income enrollees in Los Angeles County, considers itself the largest public health plan in the country, is spending $1.5 million to implement eConsult, an physician-to-physician consultation and referral network, at 47 safety-net healthcare facilities. That represents nearly a quarter of all safety-net clinics in the nation's most populous county, and officials eventually hope to expand it. "The vision is that it would be countywide," Sajid Ahmed, director of health information technology and e-health strategy at L.A. Care, told InformationWeek Healthcare. The initial rollout will include physicians affiliated with Health Care LA IPA and MedPoint Management, which provides management services to independent physician associations.