Inter-clinician electronic consultation (eConsult) programmes are becoming more widespread in the USA as health care systems seek innovative ways of improving specialty access. Existing studies examine models with programmatic incentives or requirements for primary care providers (PCPs) to participate.
We aimed to examine PCP perspectives on eConsults in a system with no programmatic incentive or requirement for PCPs to use eConsults.
We conducted seven focus groups with 41 PCPs at a safety-net community teaching health care system in Eastern Massachusetts, USA.
Focus groups revealed that eConsults improved PCP experience by enabling patient-centred care and enhanced PCP education. However, increased workload and variations in communication patterns added challenges for PCPs. Patients were perceived as receiving timelier and more convenient care. Timelier care combined with direct documentation in the patient record was perceived as improving patient safety. Although cost implications were less clear, PCPs perceived costs as being lowered through fewer unnecessary visits and laboratories.
Our findings suggest that eConsult systems with no programmatic incentives or requirements for PCPs have the potential to improve care.

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