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New HealthPartners approach saves patients time, money on specialty consults


October 16, 2019

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – HealthPartners recently launched electronic consultations, or e-consults, a new method for secure communication between primary care and specialty clinicians. HealthPartners is the first and only care system in the Twin Cities – and one of the first in the nation – to provide this service.

E-consults is an alternative option that allows doctors to quickly refer a patient to a specialist without scheduling a separate appointment, helping patients avoid unnecessary visits to specialists and freeing time for specialists to see patients who benefit most from face-to-face visits.

“Improving care and experience begins by listening to our patients and carefully examining how we have traditionally done things,” said Jess Wheeler, DO, division medical director at Park Nicollet Health Services. “It’s that spirit of innovation and partnership that can bring about changes that make care simpler and more affordable for patients and the system overall.”

Since implementing in June, HealthPartners clinicians have completed more than 650 requests with specialists for patients who have chosen this new approach. More than 85 percent of patients received a response in less than 24 hours. At $106 per e-consult, compared to $271-$412 for a face-to-face specialty visit, this new approach can save patients up to $306 per visit for specialty care.

Here’s how an e-consult works:

  • A question arises during a patient’s primary care visit that the doctor can’t answer without consulting a specialist.
  • If the patient chooses an e-consult visit, the primary care clinician messages a specialist about the patient’s case through the electronic medical record system, Epic. The message includes detailed information such as symptoms, medical history, lab results and other details.
  • The specialist responds with a recommendation within two business days.

“The great thing about e-consults for our patients is that it all happens in just two business days, versus 17 days, which is the average wait time to get in for specialty care,” Wheeler said. “Patients don’t spend weeks waiting for specialty care, when they have a straightforward need that can be addressed more quickly.”

E-consults are available for more than 20 specialties across the HealthPartners care system, including behavioral health, cardiology, neurology, OB-GYN, oncology, orthopedics and more. HealthPartners will continue to add specialties in the coming months. The system is the largest integrated multi-specialty practice in Minnesota.

Insurance coverage for e-consults may vary. Patients should check with their health plan to understand their benefits.

About HealthPartners

HealthPartners is a consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. For more information, visit

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