A recent article that ran in both the Kitchener Post and the Waterloo Record highlighted the central intake and electronic referral (eReferral) model that the eHealth Centre of Excellence’s System Coordinated Access (SCA) program is currently supporting. This model has been developed as one of the strategies to reduce the long wait times faced by patients residing in the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN) who need access to specialized orthopedic care.
In the current state, primary care doctors rely on fax machines to send referrals to orthopedic specialists, and have no way of knowing which surgeon has the shortest wait time. For this reason, they may send multiple referrals to different specialists across the region, which ends up making the waiting lists even longer.
In order to decrease wait times, the SCA program has been working in partnership with the Waterloo Wellington Regional Coordination Centre (RCC) to expand their already successful central intake model for diabetes referral to include orthopedic central intake (OCI). This system allows a family doctor to send a referral to the OCI who then ensures all the supporting documentation and tests are attached, duplicate referrals are removed from the queue and the referral is sent along to the appropriate surgeon.
As the article notes, specialists often complain that the referrals they receive are incomplete and don’t contain the required information. This can lead to a further delay in the patient receiving the treatment they need.
To make this referral process even more streamlined and seamless, the SCA program has selected a vendor – a consortium of Think Research, CognisantMD, and the Centre for Effective Practice – to build an eReferral platform that will replace paper-based and fax processes and enable family doctors to make secure, online referrals to OCI and other healthcare specialists and services directly from the electronic medical records (EMRs).
The new system – called the Ocean eReferral Network – will allow doctors to track the status of the referral within their EMR with automatic notifications being sent to the patient all along the process. The system will also give the RCC access to data that will allow them to forward referrals to the surgeon with the shortest wait list.
The SCA program is now in process of deploying the Ocean eReferral Network to family doctors as well as orthopedic specialists and hospitals that provide orthopedic surgeries throughout the WWLHIN, with plans to integrate other healthcare services in the near future.
Zach Weston, Manager of Performance at the WWLHIN, spoke to the potential for expansion of this model.
“This is the model of care we anticipate will be used for access to all specialties,” he said. “Our target right now is orthopedics. We’ve got long waits that are a priority for our LHIN to improve, but we anticipate that this will be the approach that we see with ophthalmology, for example, for cardiology, etcetera.”
If you have questions, please contact SCA Program Manager Lori Moran, at [email protected].