Improving the referrals process to create living documents for safe and rapid clinical transitions

Tuesday, 15 December, 2015

Timely, accurate and complete clinical referrals are critical for  patient care, yet probably one of the most poorly managed areas. Healthcare providers are facing new challenges on how to enable the safe and timely transition of patients and patient information between providers, at the heart of which is the patient referral.

orionThe majority of referrals today are still paper-based, resulting in slow and inefficient patient transitions. Paper-based referral systems lack visibility,traceability and standardisation. Content is often lost in translation, illegible, may contain little or no standard clinical information, may be open to misinterpretation and is subject to transcription errors. At the same time, disconnected hospital and primary care EMRs fail to safely collaborate or provide closed loop transitions.
As a result, patients are missing out on receiving the appropriate treatment at the right time - including wasted visits and duplication of tests and questions, while providers are potentially suffering from increases in operational costs and labour and the need to make decisions on incomplete information. By and large, it’s a drain on resources and has a major impact on clinical outcomes.
If integrated successfully, an electronic referral (e-referral) solution will not only benefit an organisation’s budget, but also that organisation’s reputation and patients’ wellbeing. Wait times will be reduced significantly which, in turn, increases capacity of referrals, decreases administrative costs and reduces the duplication of tests.
Alberta Health, Canada, is a great example of a healthcare system that has already encountered these challenges and has introduced an electronic inter-facility referrals system across the province using Orion Health Clinical Referrals. This electronic referrals system allows Alberta physicians to send other caregivers specific referrals that are needed for a patient along with electronic documentation from the patient’s medical record. The referring physician can track the status of the receiver’s actions to ensure that the patient’s needs are met and also track the outcomes.
Clinical referrals helps administrators find bottlenecks and delays in the delivery of care, and can help a patient receive advice quickly from a specialist rather than waiting months to see a specialist. Clinical Referrals not only ensures the coordination of care, but also reduces duplication and unnecessary delays in delivering a cohesive care experience.
In fact, wait times have been reduced by as much as 90% in some cases at Alberta Health (https://orionhealth. com/white-paper/success-in-transforming-to-a-value-based-system/), in turn, this has decreased the number of patient episodes - not only saving money, but most importantly, helping to save patient lives. Better workflows at the clinical level means shorter patient wait times and improved communication between patients, specialists and referring physicians. It also allows healthcare providers direct centralised access to data, ensuring patient safety and better patient care.
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