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DANVILLE, Pa. – Poor communication between primary care and specialty care can lead to care gaps, avoidable costly care and adverse patient outcomes. That is why Geisinger, an integrated health system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, conducted a two-year study of an internal communication program, Ask-A-Doc (AAD), to help facilitate communication between primary care and specialty care. The results demonstrated faster communication, reduction of health care costs and improved quality of care. 

The study of 21,948 physician consultations — 2,190 AAD consults and 19,758 traditional face-to-face consults — showed AAD significantly decreased turnaround time between primary and specialty physicians to 6½ hours compared to traditional referrals, which could take weeks to months. There was an approximate 14 percent reduction in total cost of care in the first month of the program and a 20 percent cost reduction during the second month compared to a group that had not been exposed to the AAD program. The reductions in cost were driven largely by decreased emergency room visits and physician office visits, with a notable 74 percent drop in specialist visits. 

“The old models of communication between primary and specialty physicians are unreliable and often ineffective, so new electronic methods need to be explored and implemented,” said Eric Newman, M.D., vice chair for clinical innovations, division of medicine. “The Ask-A-Doc program cuts down response wait times and improves reliability of communication, which allows physicians to better diagnose and treat patients. This ultimately leads to lower costs and better outcomes.” 

The Ask-A-Doc program has been extremely successful, with 99.9 percent of questions answered and more than 84 percent of Geisinger primary care providers using the program on a regular basis. Since the initial results were published, the program has continued to grow to a point where today 35 specialties participate and over 17,000 AAD consults have been completed to date. Ask-a-Doc now accounts for 10 percent of all Geisinger referrals to participating specialties. Also, by providing an alternative method for obtaining specialty help, AAD opened up almost 4,000 additional face-to-face specialty slots in 2018. Its success rests on reliably getting an answer quickly with documentation in the electronic health record, which helps deliver the right care to the right patients at the right time. 

About Geisinger

Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1.5 million consumers it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 13 hospital campuses, a 600,000-member health plan, two research centers and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. With 32,000 employees and 1,800 employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by billions of dollars annually. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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For media inquires:

Matthew Van Stone
Media Relations Director

570-808-3344
mrvanstone1@geisinger.edu