Bantry General Hospital has introduced an electronic referral system for GPs referring patients for public outpatient hospital appointments.
Dr Brian Carey, Consultant Geriatrician at Bantry General Hospital said, “The consultants at Bantry General Hospital welcome this initiative, which aims to facilitate and streamline out-patient referrals. The hospital provides a very wide range of high quality out-patient services that continues to grow year on year. We hope that this initiative will improve access to these services while enhancing communication with patients and general practitioners.”
The system is part of a HSE national pilot project. The Mercy University Hospital was the first hospital to accept electronic referrals from GPs. Since then the other acute hospitals in the region – Mallow General Hospital, Cork University Hospital, the South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital, Kerry General Hospital and now Bantry General Hospital – have made the electronic system available in their areas.
Jackie Daly, hospital manager Bantry General Hospital is “encouraging all GPs in the area to start electronically referring in their public outpatients, which will improve the overall GP and outpatient appointment process.”
The purpose of this electronic general referral project was to develop an electronic referral pathway for public outpatient hospital appointments between GPs and the seven hospitals. Healthlink provides a web-based messaging service, which allows the secure transmission of the electronic general referral from a GP to the hospital.
Once the referral has been received by Healthlink, the GP receives an acknowledgement of receipt of the referral and also an electronic response message detailing if the patient has been listed for an urgent or a routine appointment and the appointment date if available.
The system improves the overall patient experience by providing quicker access to outpatient appointments, reduced duplication and delays; faster and easier access to a consultant opinion as electronic referrals are transmitted to the hospital safely and immediately.
There are also benefits for the GPs using the system. GPs have a centralised referral department to send all electronic appointments; they can use the same referral form is used to refer to all specialties and the form auto-populates the patient’s data from the GP’s computer system. The GP also gets an immediate acknowledgement of the referral and a prompt triage response, which makes it a safe, traceable system.
Dr Frank Hill is the GP representative on the project team charged with implementing the pilot project. According to Dr Hill, “I have been electronically referring for over 12 months and it has become my default option for all referrals to public outpatients because it is fast – takes me less than a minute to create and send most referrals so I usually do it while the patient is with me. I get an immediate acknowledgement from Healthlink, which allows me to tell the patient before they leave that the referral has been received already by the hospital. I get an electronic message confirming the appointment from the hospital, which saves automatically into the patient file. This saves hugely on telephone calls to the hospital to confirm receipt of referrals when patients phone back weeks later asking what is happening with their appointment. It saves me the time and money involved in printing and posting.”
Throughout the project there has been extensive engagement and communication with the numerous stakeholders including GPs, consultants, unions, referral administrative staff and patients to ensure that the GP electronic general referral system is accessible, transparent, measurable and sustainable.