Online referrals reduce patient waitlist

The Government’s programme of reducing paperwork by embracing state-of-the-art technology has now extended to electronic referrals by General Practitioners (GPs) aimed at reducing waitlist of patients.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said that GPs across the country are swapping pens for keyboards and are now referring patients for specialist care online.

When a patient needs to be referred to a hospital specialist for further assessment or treatment, GPs can now complete an electronic referral form, send it at the touch of a button and receive an immediate notification that it has been received, he said.

Increasing usage

According to Mr Ryall, general practices sent about 500,000 patient referrals electronically to public hospitals last year.

“A few years ago, referring a patient for specialist care was a paper based process with most GPs faxing a handwritten note to the hospital. Despite best intentions, pieces of paper would sometimes get lost and the handwritten notes were not always legible or complete which could result in a patient’s appointment being delayed,” he said.

He claimed that the electronic system ‘almost eliminates’ the chance of a referral getting lost or being unreadable.

Quality information

The system also has sections, such as current medications, which must be completed before the form can be sent.

“This means hospital specialists are receiving better quality information and are less likely to have to request further information from the referring GP, delaying the patient’s appointment,” Mr Ryall said.

He said that the electronic system is funded by the Government and being used by 16 District Health Boards (DHBs).

“The remaining four DHBs (Mid-Central, Nelson Marlborough, Southern and Whanganui) will introduce the system this year,” he said.

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