GPs Net E-Referral Benefits

The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Cheshire has launched the UK’s largest electronic patient referral system, allowing GPs to make fast, secure electronic patient referrals for outpatients and radiology, at the touch of a button.

Following successful pilot trials, the Trust has linked up to 33 surgeries across Cheshire, Flintshire and the Wirral with over 2,600 e-referrals now being made every month – more than a quarter of all the referrals received by the hospital.

The new technology, designed by clinical correspondence specialists Medisec Software, allows GPs to transmit referrals straight from their practice system to the hospital and to monitor the progress of each individual case in the event of any query.

The improvements in communications have had a direct impact on patient care. As all the relevant details are automatically delivered to the correct contact at the hospital within a few seconds, referrals cannot be lost in the post or misdirected, saving patients from potential long delays before they are treated.

The software has been designed to dovetail with existing systems in surgeries and the hospital, and supports both the introduction of the Connecting for Health Choose and Book system in England, and the aims of Informing Healthcare in Wales.

Standardised templates, created in close collaboration with the PCT, GPs, hospital clinicians and the Countess of Chester IT team, produce more accurate correspondence by automatically triggering all the required information, ensuring that each of the hospital departments receives the most relevant and useful information for their needs.

Reducing the time taken to process referrals frees up practice staff to offer better patient service.  Says Tom Rothwell, Managing Director of system designers Medisec Software, “Given that GPs have typically eight to 10 minutes only to see each patient and write up any case notes, any administrative time which can be re-couped in this way can make a major impact on the quality of service the GP and practice front desk staff can offer patients.”

The referral process minimises effort for GPs with a ‘Send to Medisec’ button appearing directly in the toolbar of Microsoft Word. An alert message is automatically generated to confirm delivery and guarantee that the referral will not go missing.

Dr David Morris from St Mark’s Dee View Surgery in Flintshire explains: “Before the new software, we would produce the referral, print it out and put it in an envelope. Now, the patients love seeing the message flash on the screen, confirming that the hospital server has received the referral before they get up from their chair in my consulting room.  It’s very reassuring both for them and us.”

Allowing GPs and consultants to share patient information far more effectively has played a major role in improving the standard and speed of care at both the surgery and the Countess of Chester. Monique Duffy, Assistant Director IM&T – Planning & Development from the Countess of Chester commented: “In collaboration with the GPs, we have defined some mandatory fields for the referrals.  This gives us much more control over the quality of the patient information we receive from GPs, helping our consultants to offer patients a better quality service.”


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