Alberta scores success with e-referral pilot program
May 2, 2016
An e-referral pilot program in Alberta has shown how doctors’ offices can become more efficient and also how they can collaborate more effectively. To build on this success, the province now plans to expand the e-referral project beginning later this year.
As Dr. Allen Ausford, who is with the Lynnwood Family Practice in Edmonton, puts it: “When more than two-thirds of clinical users say that eReferral has improved the quality of care and continuity of care, that’s when you know you must be doing something right.”
The eReferral pilot was launched in July 2014 by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health. Powered by Orion Health’s portal solution, called Alberta Netcare, the eReferral pilot aimed to improve the coordination of patients transitioning across Alberta’s continuum of care.
The project started with three early adopter groups: lung cancer; breast cancer; and the hip and knee joint replacement specialties.
Through eReferral, the status and essential documentation from referrals are distributed to specialists and referring healthcare providers in a faster and more consistent manner.
On average, specialist clinics receive 45 to 50 referral faxes every single day. Some of these arrive late, many are sent to the wrong providers and often times, the referral forms are simply incomplete.
According to Jodi Glassford, Director of Closed Loop Referral Management, eReferral and Alberta Referral Pathways at AHS, “the biggest portion of one clerk’s job every day is calling the referring doctors’ offices to get a copy of the ECG.”
Incomplete referral information not only leads to frustration, but it also results in a number of issues that are resource-intensive and continue to burden the system financially: increased referral volume; transition of care delays; and, ultimately, rising healthcare costs.
Dr. Ausford notes that most referrals continue to be done via fax, “despite the fact we have a robust enterprise EMR with integrated access to the provincial EHR Netcare.”
The eReferral project has standardized a method of sending the information needed for a referral, eliminating the troublesome faxes.
“Most EMRs already have a patient summary sheet with all the pertinent information,” explains Dr. Ausford. “Using Netcare, we can attach this summary sheet to the eReferral, which only takes a second to do. Having access to the right patient information helps us to make better care-plan decisions.”
The eReferral solution includes the option for requesting advice rather than a full consult, as there are many times where the patient doesn’t actually need an in-person meeting with the specialist.
The entire process of completing an eReferral request for service takes an average of three minutes. Early results have shown that the eReferral solution fosters more collaborative patient care while helping to reduce unnecessary visits, duplication of tests and administration time.
Since the pilot’s launch, a total of 4,008 eReferrals have been submitted, with the bulk for breast cancer (2,484), hip and knee referrals (1,191) and lung cancer (333). The majority of clinical users (81 percent) say that eReferral has increased efficiency in the referral process, and an overwhelming 87 percent of users believe it has improved transparency.
Gary Folker is the Executive Vice President for Orion Health North America. For more information on Orion Health, visit www.orionhealth.com.