After a four-month pilot program, North County Health Services has decided to expand its use of an electronic consulting tool developed by San Diego-based digital health company AristaMD.

The nonprofit community health network said it will adopt AristaMD’s product, eConsults, at all 13 of its clinic locations after a trial run at three of them led to a 65 percent reduction of unnecessary, in-person visits with medical specialists.

AristaMD, which asserts that about 60 percent of specialist physician visits don’t require in-person consultations, said 91 percent of the physicians who participated in the demonstration project with NCHS indicated eConsults had a “significant influence” on their patients’ care plan. It said nine of 10 medical providers involved would recommend the service to others.

“As the pilot program was met with positive outcomes and very high acceptability by both providers and patients alike, we are thrilled to expand access to the eConsult service to all of our locations throughout North County,” Dr. Denise Gomez, NCHS’s clinical director of adult medicine, said in an AristaMD news release Oct. 11.

The product works by allowing physicians who are considering referring a patient to a specialist to enter information into eConsult. The program responds with condition-specific workup guidelines offering medical providers alternative diagnoses or other treatment plans.

If that’s not enough to reach a resolution, the physician can use eConsult to send a detailed message to a specialist who’s part of the doctor’s network or AristaMD’s own stable of medical specialists. The process leads to a signed electronic consultation that can be added to the patient’s medical file.

“We deliver the results to providers and their patients in a few hours, replacing the need to wait weeks and months to see a specialist,” AristaMD President and CEO Rebecca Cofinas said in the news release.

North County Health Services serves more than 70,000 patients per year at its community health centers in Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, Perris, Ramona and San Marcos, in addition to two mobile clinics.

AristaMD says eConsult was designed by practicing physicians, and that the platform combines clinical guidelines developed at the University of California, San Francisco, data collection and reporting and consultations carried out using the product.