Referral is the process of transferring patients under care from one healthcare professional to another due to insufficient resources, experience or expertise. The referral process is identified important for outpatient transitional care. Facilitating an electronic referral system will improve communication between caregivers.
Current referral management systems are confusing for patients, 20-40% of a referred patient does not follow through with referrals. There are numerous reasons for this confusion and prominent among them are the below:
1. Communication Gap :
A traditional referral system is a one-way communication method and is difficult to exchange complex information. Such system leads to redundancies and causes repetition of efforts such as re-ordering of tests. It costs not only the quality of care but can jeopardize patient health or have an impact on patient health outcomes.
2. Paper-Based System :
Although over 90% of the healthcare professionals are using EHR system, there is still a lack of interoperability and the referrals (particularly the ones for out of network) cited cannot be communicated, thus forcing the traditional paper way of communication practice and causing inconvenience to the patients. This procedure is unsafe and not HIPAA regulations compliant. Paper records could be misplaced, lost or stolen putting in danger confidential information.
3. No Dedicated System :
Despite referrals being a vital part of care continuum process, most providers are yet to consider employing a referral solution to ease up the task. Providers are worried that an electronic referral system might make the process impersonal or that it requires training to master the process.
Referrals are an integral part of ensuring modern healthcare. As value-based service method becomes more prominent, so will the importance of referral systems. Studies show that an electronic referral system will reduce waiting times and increase access to specialty care and increase.
Major Benefits of Electronic Referral System are as below :
1. Convenient Referral:
Referral and appointment must happen simultaneously, and key activities must be consolidated. The provider should communicate with the patients to choose the right provider. Thus engaging both the parties can improve the level of satisfaction and increase chances of follow through. A referral management system allows easy and fast data update and quick transfer of information.
2. Secure Information Sharing:
With e-referrals, providers can communicate, share data and ensure care requirements are duly fulfilled. Open communication will reduce redundancy. Such channels of continuous communication ensure the quality of care and will augment physician’s ability. It helps the providers to improve quality of care with minimal effort. Ideally, e- referral system should be able to communicate with EHR making documentation faster and simpler, aiding administration.
3. Reduced Appointment Wait Time:
E referral will reduce patient wait time for routine appointments in specialty care. E referrals are properly categorized according to priorities enabling providers to mind to at most pressing cases. Decluttering referrals translates as increased access to care for those who require it and reduced cost of care for the patients. Increase in population, improvement in access to care and longevity is putting greater pressure on providers. Making the process simple will reduce the load on providers and could make the system work for the benefit of all.
4. Patient Safety:
E referrals enhance proper communication of patient medical condition and urgency of the referral ensuring patient who needs immediate attention gets care. Patients are cared for in a timely manner and a more informed provider can reduce chances of error and repeated efforts.
5. Better Coordination and Communication:
Electronic referrals can aid in care coordination within the organization. Forming an easy route of communication, it is a great tool to communicate with specialists, to send information and get feedback in a timely manner. Primary care providers can work closely with specialist improving their understanding of the requirements and improve the patient experience.
6. Safe, Secure and HIPAA Compliant:
Referral tools offer the benefit of easy and efficient communication technology without many hassles. The Internet makes it convenient for patient and providers too. These tools are HIPAA compliant safe and secure form, designed to transfer sensitive patient information.