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author:("esquire, Adol")
1.  Improving the Effectiveness of Electronic Health Record-Based Referral Processes 
Electronic health records are increasingly being used to facilitate referral communication in the outpatient setting. However, despite support by technology, referral communication between primary care providers and specialists is often unsatisfactory and is unable to eliminate care delays. This may be in part due to lack of attention to how information and communication technology fits within the social environment of health care. Making electronic referral communication effective requires a multifaceted “socio-technical” approach. Using an 8-dimensional socio-technical model for health information technology as a framework, we describe ten recommendations that represent good clinical practices to design, develop, implement, improve, and monitor electronic referral communication in the outpatient setting. These recommendations were developed on the basis of our previous work, current literature, sound clinical practice, and a systems-based approach to understanding and implementing health information technology solutions. Recommendations are relevant to system designers, practicing clinicians, and other stakeholders considering use of electronic health records to support referral communication.
PMCID: PMC3492108  PMID: 22973874
2.  Follow-up Actions on Electronic Referral Communicationin a Multispecialty Outpatient Setting 
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.
PMCID: PMC3024094  PMID: 20848235
referrals; primary care; sub-specialty care; electronic health records; patient safety; health information technology; communication; diagnostic errors; patient follow-up
3.  Towards successful coordination of electronic health record based-referrals: a qualitative analysis 
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.
PMCID: PMC3199858  PMID: 21794109
4.  Understanding the management of electronic test result notifications in the outpatient setting 
Notifying clinicians about abnormal test results through electronic health record (EHR) -based "alert" notifications may not always lead to timely follow-up of patients. We sought to understand barriers, facilitators, and potential interventions for safe and effective management of abnormal test result delivery via electronic alerts.
We conducted a qualitative study consisting of six 6-8 member focus groups (N = 44) at two large, geographically dispersed Veterans Affairs facilities. Participants included full-time primary care providers, and personnel representing diagnostic services (radiology, laboratory) and information technology. We asked participants to discuss barriers, facilitators, and suggestions for improving timely management and follow-up of abnormal test result notifications and encouraged them to consider technological issues, as well as broader, human-factor-related aspects of EHR use such as organizational, personnel, and workflow.
Providers reported receiving a large number of alerts containing information unrelated to abnormal test results, many of which were believed to be unnecessary. Some providers also reported lacking proficiency in use of certain EHR features that would enable them to manage alerts more efficiently. Suggestions for improvement included improving display and tracking processes for critical alerts in the EHR, redesigning clinical workflow, and streamlining policies and procedures related to test result notification.
Providers perceive several challenges for fail-safe electronic communication and tracking of abnormal test results. A multi-dimensional approach that addresses technology as well as the many non-technological factors we elicited is essential to design interventions to reduce missed test results in EHRs.
PMCID: PMC3100236  PMID: 21486478
Decision Support Systems; Clinical; Automated notification; diagnostic errors; abnormal diagnostic test results; Medical Records Systems; Computerized; patient follow-up; patient safety; health information technology; communication; primary care
5.  Improving outpatient safety through effective electronic communication: a study protocol 
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.
PMCID: PMC2761849  PMID: 19781075
6.  Accuracy and self correction of information received from an internet breast cancer list: content analysis 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2006;332(7547):939-942.
Objectives To determine the prevalence of false or misleading statements in messages posted by internet cancer support groups and whether these statements were identified as false or misleading and corrected by other participants in subsequent postings.
Design Analysis of content of postings.
Setting Internet cancer support group Breast Cancer Mailing List.
Main outcome measures Number of false or misleading statements posted from 1 January to 23 April 2005 and whether these were identified and corrected by participants in subsequent postings.
Results 10 of 4600 postings (0.22%) were found to be false or misleading. Of these, seven were identified as false or misleading by other participants and corrected within an average of four hours and 33 minutes (maximum, nine hours and nine minutes).
Conclusions Most posted information on breast cancer was accurate. Most false or misleading statements were rapidly corrected by participants in subsequent postings.
PMCID: PMC1444809  PMID: 16513686
7.  Using Technology to Teach Technology: Design and Evaluation of Bilingual Online Physician Education About Electronic Medical Records 
The “EMR Tutorial” is designed to be a bilingual online physician education environment about electronic medical records. After iterative assessment and redesign, the tutorial was tested in two groups: U.S. physicians and Mexican medical students. Split-plot ANOVA revealed significantly different pre-test scores in the two groups, significant cognitive gains for the two groups overall, and no significant difference in the gains made by the two groups. Users rated the module positively on a satisfaction questionnaire.
PMCID: PMC1560481  PMID: 16779233
Computer assisted instruction; medical education; acculturation; language

Results 1-7 (7)