The benefits of an electronic referral system include:
- instant delivery of referrals and feedback. When you refer via fax or phone message, you may wait a long time to find out if your referral has gone through. With electronic referral you are notified when the other organisation receives the referral
- a stored history of your interaction with a client/referral. Other organisations can see this too and make informed decisions. You can also create an individual support plan for a client
- security. Email is convenient, but is not a secure way to send a referral. Electronic referral systems are both convenient and secure
- clarity. Hand-written referrals and faxes can be difficult to read; electronic referrals are always clear
- getting an alert if or when you have to follow-up with the referred organisation (or if someone is referred to you and you need to take action).
What kinds of electronic referral systems are there?
Some examples of online electronic referral systems
- S2S4Networks – (note that this is an Infoxchange product)
- Connecting Care – register to use the service here
Some examples of secure messaging systems
- Argus Connecting Care – information on subscribing is here
- Practix - information on using the system should be requested directly from the company
- HealthLink provider messaging – information on subscribing is here
- Medical-Objects – information on downloading is here
- ReferralNet - information on subscribing should be requested directly from the company
You can see a full list of Australian health-related secure messaging systems here.
Selecting an electronic referral system for your organisation
The most important consideration when choosing an electronic referral system is whether other organisations in your network are already using a system. In most cases, electronic referrals will only work when you’re both on the same system. Speak to the organisations you work most closely with and ask for a recommendation. If none of them are using electronic referrals yet, discuss the possibility of you all going on to the same system.
You should also consider the level of security and privacy you require. Make sure any system you consider will provide the level of security you’re legally obliged to abide by (a guide to *update to new links* New Zealand's privacy legislation is here; Australia's is here). If state or national policy or programs change, will your system be updated to match the new requirements?
Check whether the system will integrate with software and work practices you’re already using. How difficult and expensive will it be if you need to change other systems or the way you work? What will the implications be for training staff?
Benefits in the field
Victorian Department of Human Services ran a state-wide forum on electronic referral with presentations from a range of organisations.
Participants reported significant increases in productivity and enhanced staff morale. Anecdotal reports included Community Health workers saying they had twice the time available for specialist assessments and therapeutic intervention. Aged care staff were saving more than an hour a week by sending electronic referrals, and sometimes saving up to 10 to 15 minutes for assessment and re-assessment at home visits. Podiatry staff were gaining time for an additional client appointment each day. Consumers appreciated not having to repeat their histories and having better access to the information they need.