New Zealand is currently implementing a standard for the electronic referral of patients from primary care to District Health Board (DHB) provided specialist services (eReferral). Medical Officers of Health working within DHB public health services receive referrals through a legally mandated disease notification system. Although laboratories have reported notifiable diseases electronically since 2007 clinical and risk factor information are still reported by fax or telephone. This paper describes a project that aims to adapt eReferral for public health purposes.
A work group of Medical Officers of Health was convened to develop criteria for priority disease selection and to develop data and functional requirements.
Eleven out of 52 notifiable diseases were selected based on potential to improve public health response and or make referral easier for medical practitioners. In addition to identifiers and demographics data requirements included: symptom onset date, occupation and place of work (or other day time location) and workplace name. The work group specified that most enteric disease eReferrals should be triggered by a positive laboratory test. Vaccine preventable disease eReferrals should occur at the time of relevant laboratory test order.
The project is at an early stage and consultation with referrers has been limited. The next stage will require working closely with referring doctors to resolve practical issues with occupation coding, to minimize practice workflow change, and to maintain consistency with other eReferral processes.
Disease Notification; Referral and Consultation; Population Surveillance; Electronic Health Records; Primary Health Care
Successful subspecialty referrals require considerable coordination and interactive communication among the primary care provider (PCP), the subspecialist, and the patient, which may be challenging in the outpatient setting. Even when referrals are facilitated by electronic health records (EHRs) (i.e., e-referrals), lapses in patient follow-up might occur. Although compelling reasons exist why referral coordination should be improved, little is known about which elements of the complex referral coordination process should be targeted for improvement. Using Okhuysen & Bechky's coordination framework, this paper aims to understand the barriers, facilitators, and suggestions for improving communication and coordination of EHR-based referrals in an integrated healthcare system.
We conducted a qualitative study to understand coordination breakdowns related to e-referrals in an integrated healthcare system and examined work-system factors that affect the timely receipt of subspecialty care. We conducted interviews with seven subject matter experts and six focus groups with a total of 30 PCPs and subspecialists at two tertiary care Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers. Using techniques from grounded theory and content analysis, we identified organizational themes that affected the referral process.
Four themes emerged: lack of an institutional referral policy, lack of standardization in certain referral procedures, ambiguity in roles and responsibilities, and inadequate resources to adapt and respond to referral requests effectively. Marked differences in PCPs' and subspecialists' communication styles and individual mental models of the referral processes likely precluded the development of a shared mental model to facilitate coordination and successful referral completion. Notably, very few barriers related to the EHR were reported.
Despite facilitating information transfer between PCPs and subspecialists, e-referrals remain prone to coordination breakdowns. Clear referral policies, well-defined roles and responsibilities for key personnel, standardized procedures and communication protocols, and adequate human resources must be in place before implementing an EHR to facilitate referrals.
Electronic referrals can improve access to subspecialty care in safety net settings. In January 2007, San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH) launched an electronic referral portal that incorporated subspecialist triage, iterative communication with referring providers, and existing electronic health record data to improve access to subspecialty care.
We surveyed primary care providers (PCPs) to assess the impact of electronic referrals on workflow and clinical care.
We administered an 18-item, web-based questionnaire to all 368 PCPs who had the option of referring to SFGH.
We asked participants to rate time spent submitting a referral, guidance of workup, wait times, and change in overall clinical care compared to prior referral methods using 5-point Likert scales. We used multivariate logistic regression to identify variables associated with perceived improvement in overall clinical care.
Two hundred ninety-eight PCPs (81.0%) from 24 clinics participated. Over half (55.4%) worked at hospital-based clinics, 27.9% at county-funded community clinics, and 17.1% at non-county-funded community clinics. Most (71.9%) reported that electronic referrals had improved overall clinical care. Providers from non-county-funded clinics (AOR 0.40, 95% CI 0.14-0.79) and those who spent ≥6 min submitting an electronic referral (AOR 0.33, 95%CI 0.18-0.61) were significantly less likely than other participants to report that electronic referrals had improved clinical care.
PCPs felt electronic referrals improved health-care access and quality; those who reported a negative impact on workflow were less likely to agree. While electronic referrals hold promise as a tool to improve clinical care, their impact on workflow should be considered.
electronic referral; information technology; subspecialty care; safety net health system
Health information technology and electronic medical records (EMRs) are potentially powerful systems-based interventions to facilitate diagnosis and treatment because they ensure the delivery of key new findings and other health related information to the practitioner. However, effective communication involves more than just information transfer; despite a state of the art EMR system, communication breakdowns can still occur. [1-3] In this project, we will adapt a model developed by the Systems Engineering Initiative for Patient Safety (SEIPS) to understand and improve the relationship between work systems and processes of care involved with electronic communication in EMRs. We plan to study three communication activities in the Veterans Health Administration's (VA) EMR: electronic communication of abnormal imaging and laboratory test results via automated notifications (i.e., alerts); electronic referral requests; and provider-to-pharmacy communication via computerized provider order entry (CPOE).
Our specific aim is to propose a protocol to evaluate the systems and processes affecting outcomes of electronic communication in the computerized patient record system (related to diagnostic test results, electronic referral requests, and CPOE prescriptions) using a human factors engineering approach, and hence guide the development of interventions for work system redesign.
This research will consist of multiple qualitative methods of task analysis to identify potential sources of error related to diagnostic test result alerts, electronic referral requests, and CPOE; this will be followed by a series of focus groups to identify barriers, facilitators, and suggestions for improving the electronic communication system. Transcripts from all task analyses and focus groups will be analyzed using methods adapted from grounded theory and content analysis.
Failed referrals for specialty care are common and often represent medical errors. Technological structures and processes account for many failures. Scheduling appointments for subspecialty evaluation is a first step in outpatient referral and consultation.
We determined whether moving from paper-based referrals to a Web-based system with automated tracking features was associated with greater scheduling of appointments among referred patients.
Staggered implementation of a quality-improvement project, with comparison of intervention and control groups.
Patients 21 or more years of age referred from any of 11 primary-care clinics to any of 25 specialty clinics.
Faxed referrals were replaced by a Web-based application shared by generalists and specialists, with enhanced communications and automated notification to the specialty office.
We compared scheduling before and after implementation and time from referral to appointment. A logistic regression analysis adjusted for demographics.
Among 40,487 referrals, 54% led to scheduled specialty visits before intervention, compared to 83% with intervention. The median time to appointment was 168 days without intervention and 78 days with intervention. Scheduling increased more when duplicate referrals were not generated (54% for single orders, 24% for multiple orders). After adjustment, referrals with the intervention were more than twice as likely to have scheduled visits.
With a new Web-based referrals system, referrals were more than twice as likely to lead to a scheduled visit. This system improves access to specialty medical services.
referral and consultation; ambulatory care; information systems
To present a partnership-based and community-oriented approach designed to ease provider anxiety and facilitate the implementation of electronic health records (EHR) in resource-limited primary care settings.
Materials and Methods
The approach, referred to as partnership model, was developed and iteratively refined through the research team's previous work on implementing health information technology (HIT) in over 30 safety net practices. This paper uses two case studies to illustrate how the model was applied to help two nurse-managed health centers (NMHC), a particularly vulnerable primary care setting, implement EHR and get prepared to meet the meaningful use criteria.
The strong focus of the model on continuous quality improvement led to eventual implementation success at both sites, despite difficulties encountered during the initial stages of the project.
There has been a lack of research, particularly in resource-limited primary care settings, on strategies for abating provider anxiety and preparing them to manage complex changes associated with EHR uptake. The partnership model described in this paper may provide useful insights into the work shepherded by HIT regional extension centers dedicated to supporting resource-limited communities disproportionally affected by EHR adoption barriers.
NMHC, similar to other primary care settings, are often poorly resourced, understaffed, and lack the necessary expertise to deploy EHR and integrate its use into their day-to-day practice. This study demonstrates that implementation of EHR, a prerequisite to meaningful use, can be successfully achieved in this setting, and partnership efforts extending far beyond the initial software deployment stage may be the key.
Collaborative technologies; community health care; developing/using clinical decision support (other than diagnostic) and guideline systems; electronic health records (E05.318.308.940.968.625.500); health information technology for economic and clinical health act (N03.706.615.049); human–computer interaction and human-centered computing; improving healthcare workflow and process efficiency; nurse-managed health centers; personal health records and self-care systems; qualitative/ethnographic field study; regional extension centers; social/organizational study; system implementation and management issues; systems supporting patient–provider interaction
Information technology can support the implementation of clinical research findings in practice settings. Technology can address the quality gap in health care by providing automated decision support to clinicians that integrates guideline knowledge with electronic patient data to present real-time, patient-specific recommendations. However, technical success in implementing decision support systems may not translate directly into system use by clinicians. Successful technology integration into clinical work settings requires explicit attention to the organizational context. We describe the application of a “sociotechnical” approach to integration of ATHENA DSS, a decision support system for the treatment of hypertension, into geographically dispersed primary care clinics. We applied an iterative technical design in response to organizational input and obtained ongoing endorsements of the project by the organization's administrative and clinical leadership. Conscious attention to organizational context at the time of development, deployment, and maintenance of the system was associated with extensive clinician use of the system.
Poor communication between referring clinicians and specialists may lead to inefficient use of specialist services. San Francisco General Hospital implemented an electronic referral system (eReferral) that facilitates iterative pre-visit communication between referring and specialty clinicians to improve the referral process.
The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of eReferral (compared with paper-based referrals) on specialty referrals.
The study was based on a visit-based questionnaire appended to new patient charts at randomly selected specialist clinic sessions before and after the implementation of eReferral.
The questionnaire focused on the self-reported difficulty in identifying referral question, referral appropriateness, need for and avoidability of follow-up visits.
We collected 505 questionnaires from speciality clinicians. It was difficult to identify the reason for referral in 19.8% of medical and 38.0% of surgical visits using paper-based methods vs. 11.0% and 9.5% of those using eReferral (p-value 0.03 and <0.001). Of those using eReferral, 6.4% and 9.8% of medical and surgical referrals using paper methods vs. 2.6% and 2.1% were deemed not completely appropriate (p-value 0.21 and 0.03). Follow-up was requested for 82.4% and 76.2% of medical and surgical patients with paper-based referrals vs. 90.1% and 58.1% of eReferrals (p-value 0.06 and 0.01). Follow-up was considered avoidable for 32.4% and 44.7% of medical and surgical follow-ups with paper-based methods vs. 27.5% and 13.5% with eReferral (0.41 and <0.001).
Use of technology to promote standardized referral processes and iterative communication between referring clinicians and specialists has the potential to improve communication between primary care providers and specialists and to increase the effectiveness of specialty referrals.
access to care; communication; specialty care
The main objective of this paper is to investigate whether incorporating an electronic optional guideline tool (EOGT) in the standardized referral template used by general practitioners (GPs) when referring patients to specialized care can improve outpatient referral appropriateness.
Intervention study with an intervention and a control group.
210 GPs in the municipality of Bergen and the Department of Thoracic Medicine at Haukeland University Hospital.
2400 patients referred to the Department of Thoracic Medicine at Haukeland University Hospital.
An electronic optional guideline tool (EOGT) was implemented on 93 of 210 GPs’ computer systems. The referral quality and the time spent reviewing each referral were evaluated by the hospital specialists. The GPs did not know that their referrals were being evaluated. The specialists were blinded with regard to information concerning the intervention and the control group. The specialists reported significantly higher referral quality and considerably less time spent on evaluating referrals when using the EOGT, with an overall time reduction of 34%. Likewise, GPs also reported that the EOGT was easy to use, time-saving and led to an improved quality of their referrals.
This study documents an improvement in the quality of the referrals. Since the GPs save time by using the EOGT, there is no reason to believe that they will discontinue using it. In fact, the tool may be even more beneficial for the GP. The authors believe that it is possible to implement the EOGT as a standard referral tool within various fields of medicine and are currently in the process of developing these tools.
General practice; general practitioners; intervention studies; lung diseases; Norway; outpatients; quality improvement; referral and consultation
OBJECTIVES--To determine the extent to which variation in rates of referral among general practitioners may be explained by inappropriate referrals and to estimate the effect of implementing referral guidelines. SETTING--Practices within Cambridge Health Authority and Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Data on practice referral rates from hospital computers, inappropriate referrals as judged by hospital consultants, and inappropriate referrals as judged against referral guidelines which had been developed locally between general practitioners and specialists. Effect of referral guidelines on referral patterns as judged by general practitioners using the guidelines in clinical practice. RESULTS--There was 2.5-fold variation in referral rates among general practices. According to the specialists, 9.6% (95% confidence interval 6.4% to 12.9%) of referrals by general practitioners and 8.9% (2.6% to 15.2%) of referrals from other specialists were judged possibly or definitely inappropriate. Against locally determined referral guidelines 15.9% of referrals by general practitioners were judged possibly inappropriate (11.8% to 20.0%). Elimination of all possibly inappropriate referrals could reduce variation in practice referral rates only from 2.5-fold to 2.1-fold. An estimate of the effect of using referral guidelines for 60 common conditions in routine general practice suggested that application of guidelines would have been unlikely to reduce rates of referral in hospital (95% confidence interval -4.5% to 8.6% of consultations resulting in referral). CONCLUSION--The variation in referral rates among general practitioners in Cambridge could not be explained by inappropriate referrals. Application of referral guidelines would be unlikely to reduce the number of patients referred to hospital.
OBJECTIVE: To test feasibility and acceptability of teleconferencing routine outpatient consultations. DESIGN: Exploratory trial of teleconferenced outpatient referrals of general practitioners. SETTING: An inner city teaching hospital and surrounding general practices. SUBJECTS: Six general practices linked to hospital outpatient clinics. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Levels of participants' satisfaction measured with self administered questionnaires. RESULTS: 54 teleconsultations were performed in 10 different specialties. Few serious technical problems were encountered, and high levels of satisfaction with the consultations were reported by patients, hospital specialists, and general practitioners. CONCLUSIONS: Teleconferenced consultations for routine outpatient referrals with joint participation of general practitioner were feasible. These may have an important potential benefit for improving communication between primary and secondary care.
Inadequate follow-up of abnormal fecal occult blood test (FOBT) results occurs in several types of practice settings. Our institution implemented multifaceted quality improvement (QI) activities in 2004–2005 to improve follow-up of FOBT positive results. Activities addressed pre-colonoscopy referral processes and system-level factors such as electronic communication and provider education and feedback. We evaluated their effects on timeliness and appropriateness of positive FOBT follow-up and identified factors that affect colonoscopy performance.
Retrospective electronic medical record (EMR) review was used to determine outcomes pre- and post-QI activities in a multi-specialty ambulatory clinic of a tertiary care Veterans Affairs facility and its affiliated satellite clinics. From 1869 FOBT positive cases, 800 were randomly selected from time periods before and after QI activities. Two reviewers used a pretested standardized data collection form to determine whether colonoscopy was appropriate or indicated based on pre-determined criteria and if so, the timeliness of colonoscopy referral and performance pre- and post-QI activities.
In cases where a colonoscopy was indicated, the proportion of patients who received a timely colonoscopy referral and performance were significantly higher post implementation (60.5% vs. 31.7%, p<0.0001 and 11.4% vs. 3.4%, p =0.0005 respectively). A significant decrease also resulted in median times to referral and performance (6 vs. 19 days p<0.0001 and 96.5 vs. 190 days p<0.0001 respectively) and in the proportion of positive FOBT test results that had received no follow-up by the time of chart review (24.3%vs. 35.9%; p=0.0045). Significant predictors of absence of the performance of an indicated colonoscopy included performance of a non-colonoscopy procedure such as barium enema or flexible sigmoidoscopy (OR=16.9; 95% CI 1.9–145.1), patient non-adherence (OR=33.9; 95% CI 17.3–66.6), not providing an appropriate provisional diagnosis on the consultation (OR= 17.9; 95% CI 11.3–28.1) and gastroenterology service not rescheduling colonoscopies after an initial cancellation (OR= 11.0; 95% CI 5.1–23.7)
Multifaceted QI activities improved rates of timely colonoscopy referral and performance in an EMR system. However, colonoscopy was not indicated in over one third of patients with positive FOBTs, raising concerns about current screening practices and the appropriate denominator used for performance measurement standards related to colon cancer screening.
Although screening for tobacco use is increasing with electronic health records and standard protocols, other tobacco-control activities, such as referral of patients to cessation resources, is quite low. In the QUIT-PRIMO study, an online referral portal will allow providers to enter smokers' email addresses into the system. Upon returning home, the smokers will receive automated emails providing education about tobacco cessation and encouragement to use the patient smoking cessation website (with interactive tools, educational resources, motivational email messages, secure messaging with a tobacco treatment specialist, and online support group).
The informatics system will be evaluated in a comparative effectiveness trial of 160 community-based primary care practices, cluster-randomized at the practice level. In the QUIT-PRIMO intervention, patients will be provided a paper information-prescription referral and then "e-referred" to the system. In the comparison group, patients will receive only the paper-based information-prescription referral with the website address. Once patients go to the website, they are subsequently randomized within practices to either a standard patient smoking cessation website or an augmented version with access to a tobacco treatment specialist online, motivational emails, and an online support group. We will compare intervention and control practice participation (referral rates) and patient participation (proportion referred who go to the website). We will then compare the effectiveness of the standard and augmented patient websites.
Our goal is to evaluate an integrated informatics solution to increase access to web-delivered smoking cessation support. We will analyze the impact of this integrated system in terms of process (provider e-referral and patient login) and patient outcomes (six-month smoking cessation).
Web-delivered Provider Intervention for Tobacco Control (QUIT-PRIMO) - a randomized controlled trial: NCT00797628.
Increased interest in implementing evidence-based medicine in paediatric practice has led to the development of a variety of electronic clinical and decision-making support tools. Electronic medical records and information resources have the potential to improve both the clinical and cost effectiveness of paediatric community practice at the point of care. Barriers to the successful implementation of clinical information Intranet resources include physician attitudes, as well as system and practitioner capabilities.
To examine Ontario’s community care paediatricians’ electronic information resource needs and interest in accessing the proposed Central West Ontario Pediatric Information Network (CWPIN).
Cross-sectional, interviewer-facilitated, structured survey.
Paediatricians providing community care in the Central West Ontario Health Region.
Three-quarters of regional community paediatricians responded to the survey. Of those surveyed, 98% expressed interest in gaining access to the CWPIN. Computer literacy, suggested by home computer and Internet use rates (88% and 81%, respectively), did not differ significantly by age or sex. Other factors that may affect network use, such as workplace computer use and allied personnel role assignment, differed by sex, indicating potentially greater CWPIN use among male practitioners.
Physicians reported an overwhelming interest in gaining access to and using the CWPIN. Disparities in current workplace but not home-based computer use by sex indicate that workplace role allocation, rather than computer literacy, may explain sex differences in CWPIN use rates. Attitudinal and computer proficiency issues did not appear to be obstacles to implementing the clinical information Intranet resource in the region.
Clinical information network; Intranet; Paediatrics; Utilization rates
The purpose of this paper is to argue for an integration of cognitive and socio-technical approaches to assessing the impact of health information systems. Historically, health informatics research has examined the cognitive and socio-technical aspects of health information systems separately. In this paper we argue that evaluations of health information systems should consider aspects related to cognition as well as socio-technical aspects including impact on workflow (i.e. an integrated view). Using examples from the study of technology-induced error in healthcare, we argue for the use of simulations to evaluate the cognitive-socio-technical impacts of health information technology . Implications of clinical simulations and analysis of cognitive-social-technical impacts are discussed within the context of the system development life cycle to improve health information system design, implementation and evaluation.
Technology induced error; cognitive; sociotechnical; cognitive-socio-technical; patient safety.
Guidelines recommend that older people should receive multi-factorial interventions following an injurious fall however there is limited evidence that this is routine practice. We aimed to improve the delivery of evidence based care to patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) following a fall.
A prospective before and after study was undertaken in the ED of a medium-sized hospital in Perth, Western Australia. Participants comprised 313 community-dwelling patients, aged 65 years and older, presenting to ED as a result of a fall. A multi-faceted strategy to change practice was implemented and included a referral pathway, audit and feedback and additional falls specialist staff. Key measures to show improvements comprised the proportion of patients reviewed by allied health, proportion of patients referred for guideline care, quality of care index, all determined by record extraction.
Allied health staff increased the proportion of patients being reviewed from 62.7% in the before period to 89% after the intervention (P < 0.001). Before the intervention a referral for comprehensive guideline care occurred for only 6/177 (3.4%) of patients, afterwards for 28/136 (20.6%) (difference = 17.2%, 95% CI 11-23%). Average quality of care index (max score 100) increased from 18.6 (95% CI: 16.7-20.4) to 32.6 (28.6-36.6).
A multi-faceted change strategy was associated with an improvement in allied health in ED prioritizing the review of ED fallers as well as subsequent referral for comprehensive geriatric care. The processes of multi-disciplinary care also improved, indicating improved care received by the patient.
The use of electronic health records (EHR) is widely recommended as a means to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of US healthcare. Relatively little is known, however, about how implementation and use of this technology affects the work of clinicians and support staff who provide primary health care in small, independent practices.
To study the impact of EHR use on clinician and staff work burden in small, community-based primary care practices.
We conducted in-depth field research in seven community-based primary care practices. A team of field researchers spent 9–14 days over a 4–8 week period observing work in each practice, following patients through the practices, conducting interviews with key informants, and collecting documents and photographs. Field research data were coded and analyzed by a multidisciplinary research team, using a grounded theory approach.
All practice members and selected patients in seven community-based primary care practices in the Northeastern US.
The impact of EHR use on work burden differed for clinicians compared to support staff. EHR use reduced both clerical and clinical staff work burden by improving how they check in and room patients, how they chart their work, and how they communicate with both patients and providers. In contrast, EHR use reduced some clinician work (i.e., prescribing, some lab-related tasks, and communication within the office), while increasing other work (i.e., charting, chronic disease and preventive care tasks, and some lab-related tasks). Thoughtful implementation and strategic workflow redesign can mitigate the disproportionate EHR-related work burden for clinicians, as well as facilitate population-based care.
The complex needs of the primary care clinician should be understood and considered as the next iteration of EHR systems are developed and implemented.
electronic health records; primary care; work burden; qualitative research
There has been created an online communication tool with the objective to improve the communication among different levels of care, between Primary Care clinicians and Specialists. This tool is web 2.0 based technology (ECOPIH project). It allows to review clinical cases and to share knowledge. Our study will evaluate its impact in terms of reduction on the number of referrals to three specialties two years after the use of this tool.
Open, multicenter, controlled, non random intervention study over 24 months. Study population includes 131 Primary Care Physicians assigned to nine health centers. The study will compare the clinicians that use the ECOPIH with the ones that do not use the tool. Also, professionals that start to use the tool during the period time of the study will be included.
The number of annual referrals during the first and second year will be analyzed and retrospectively compared with the previous year to the implementation of the tool. Moreover, it will be assessed the level of satisfaction of the professionals with the tool and to what extend the tool responds to their needs.
The implementation of ECOPIH in the field of Primary Health Care can decrease the number of referrals from primary care to specialist care.
It is expected that the reduction will be more noticeable in the group of professionals that use more intensively the tool. Furthermore, we believe that it can be also observed with the professionals that read the contributions of the others.
We anticipate high degree of customer satisfaction as it is a very helpful resource never used before in our environment.
Remote consultation; Primary health care; Problem solving; Telemedicine; Referral and consultation; Education medical continuing
The Personalized Health Care Workgroup of the American Health Information Community was formed to determine what is needed to promote standard reporting and incorporation of medical genetic/genomic tests and family health history data in electronic health records. The Workgroup has examined and clarified a range of issues related to this information, including interoperability standards and requirements for confidentiality, privacy, and security, in the course of developing recommendations to facilitate its capture, storage, transmission, and use in clinical decision support. The Workgroup is one of several appointed by the American Health Information Community to study high-priority issues related to the implementation of interoperable electronic health records in the United States. It is also a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Personalized Health Care Initiative, which is designed to create a foundation upon which information technology that supports personalized, predictive, and pre-emptive health care can be built.
Community health centers (CHCs) face a unique set of challenges and can learn much from each other as they prepare for the adoption of health information technology (HIT).
This paper presents a research agenda aimed at providing information CHCs will need to successfully implement HIT.
Community health centers must be able to evaluate whether an investment in HIT is the best way to achieve improvements in health outcomes for their communities given the limited resources and high demands they face. Community health centers need better information to guide them in selecting and implementing information technology that will result in improved health quality and safety. Guidance in optimal use of the system, particularly in the effective use of data made available through electronic health records, is needed to realize health care goals. Community health centers need to be active participants in HIT developments in their communities to ensure that their patients benefit from technological advancements that improve health care.
electronic health records; health information technology; community health centers; health care quality; health care safety
Electronic health records (EHR) enable transmission and tracking of referrals between primary-care practitioners (PCPs) and subspecialists. We used an EHR to examine follow-up actions on electronic referral communication in a large multispecialty VA facility.
We retrieved outpatient referrals to five subspecialties between October 2006 and December 2007, and queried the EHR to determine their status: completed, discontinued (returned to PCP), or unresolved (no action taken by subspecialist). All unresolved referrals, and random samples of discontinued and completed referrals were reviewed to determine whether subspecialists took follow-up actions (i.e., schedule appointments anytime in the future) within 30 days of referral-receipt. For referrals without timely follow-up, we determined whether inaction was supported by any predetermined justifiable reasons or associated with certain referral characteristics. We also reviewed if PCPs took the required action on returned information.
Of 61,931 referrals, 22,535 were discontinued (36.4%), and 474 were unresolved (0.8%). We selected 412 discontinued referrals randomly for review. Of these, 52% lacked follow-up actions within 30 days. Appropriate justifications for inaction were documented in 69.8% (150/215) of those without action and included lack of prerequisite testing by the PCP and subspecialist opinion that no intervention was required despite referral. We estimated that at 30 days, 6.3% of all referrals were associated with an unexplained lack of follow-up actions by subspecialists. Conversely, 7.4% of discontinued referrals returned to PCPs were associated with an unexplained lack of follow-up.
Although the EHR facilitates transmission of valuable information at the PCP-subspecialist interface, unexplained communication breakdowns in the referral process persist in a subset of cases.
referrals; primary care; sub-specialty care; electronic health records; patient safety; health information technology; communication; diagnostic errors; patient follow-up
The Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) was formed to improve patient safety and quality of care by promoting the use of health information technology through community-based implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) and health information exchange. The Collaborative has recently implemented EHRs in a diverse set of competitively selected communities, encompassing nearly 500 physicians serving over 500,000 patients. Targeting both EHR implementation and health information exchange at the community level has identified numerous challenges and strategies for overcoming them. This article describes the formation and implementation phases of the Collaborative, focusing on barriers identified, lessons learned, and policy issues.
Effective communication is essential to safe and efficient patient care. Additionally, many health information technology (HIT) developments, innovations, and standards aim to implement processes to improve data quality and integrity of electronic health records (EHR) for the purpose of clinical information exchange and communication.
We aimed to understand the current patterns and perceptions of communication of common goals in the ICU using the distributed cognition and clinical communication space theoretical frameworks.
We conducted a focus group and 5 interviews with ICU clinicians and observed 59.5 hours of interdisciplinary ICU morning rounds.
Clinicians used an EHR system, which included electronic documentation and computerized provider order entry (CPOE), and paper artifacts for documentation; yet, preferred the verbal communication space as a method of information exchange because they perceived that the documentation was often not updated or efficient for information retrieval. These perceptions that the EHR is a “shift behind” may lead to a further reliance on verbal information exchange, which is a valuable clinical communication activity, yet, is subject to information loss.
Electronic documentation tools that, in real time, capture information that is currently verbally communicated may increase the effectiveness of communication.
ICU; communication; interdisciplinary; electronic health record
In this study we explored the challenges to establishing a community of practice (CoP) to address standards in general practice. We focused on the issue of improving referral letters which are the main form of communication between general practitioners (GPs) and specialists. There is evidence to suggest that the information relayed to specialists at the time of referral could be improved.
We aimed to develop a community of practice consisting of GPs in Western Australia to improve the quality of referral letters to six specialty clinics. Three phases included: establishing the CoP, monitoring the progress of the CoP and sustaining and managing the CoP. The CoP's activity centred on referral letters to each of six selected specialties. A local measure for the quality of the referral letters was developed from a survey of participants about specific items of history and weighted for their perceived importance in the referral letter. Referral letters by participants written before and after the benchmarking exercise were scored for quality based on the standards set by the CoP. Feedback to participants regarding the 'quality' of their individual referrals was provided by a nominated member of the CoP, including a comparison of before and after scores.
15 GPs were recruited. Only five GPs submitted referral letters both before and after benchmarking. The five GPs that participated in both study phases submitted a total of 102 referral letters (53 before and 49 after). There was a 26 point (95% CI 11–41) improvement in the average scores of the second set of letters after taking clustering by speciality into account, indicating the quality of referral letters improved substantially after feedback.
There are many challenges to forming a CoP to focus on improving a specific issue in general practice. However we were able to demonstrate that those practitioners who participated in all aspects of the project substantially improved the quality of their referral letters. For recruitment it was important to work with a champion for the project from within the practice. The project took several months to complete therefore some GPs became disengaged. Some were very disappointed by their performance when compared to colleagues. This reaction may be an important motivation to change, however it needs to be sensitively handled if participants are not to become disillusioned or disheartened.
The sharing of information resources is generally accepted as the key to substantial improvements in productivity and better quality of care. In addition, due to the greater mobility of the population, national and international healthcare networks are increasingly used to facilitate the sharing of healthcare-related information among the various actors of the field. In the context of HYGEIAnet, the regional health telematics network of Crete, an Integrated Electronic Health Record environment has been developed to provide integrated access to online clinical information, accessible throughout the island.
To make available comprehensive medical information about a patient by means of incorporating all the distributed and heterogeneous health record segments into an Integrated Electronic Health Record that can be viewed on-line through a unified user interface and visualization environment.
The technological approach for implementing this Integrated Electronic Health Record environment is based on the HYGEIAnet Reference Architecture, which provides the necessary framework for the reuse of services, components, and interfaces. Seamless presentation of information is achieved by means of the Extensible Markup Language (XML), while its underlying capabilities allow for dynamic navigation according to personalized end-user preferences and authorities.
The Integrated Electronic Health Record environment developed in HYGEIAnet provides the basis for consistent and authenticated access to primary information over the Internet in order to support decision-making. Primary information is always kept at the place where it has been produced, and is maintained by the most appropriate clinical information system, contrasting traditional store and forward techniques, or centralized clinical data repositories.
Since documents are much more easily accessible rather than data inside a database, Extensible Markup Language has the potential of becoming a very cheap technology provided, of course, that the underlying Healthcare Information Infrastructure exists. XML can be introduced incrementally and its implementation is completely transparent to the end user.
Integrated Advanced Information Management Systems; Delivery of Healthcare; Medical Record Systems, Computerized; Hospital Information Systems; XML