December 11, 2020

Axe the Fax

In October this year, and after a highly successful two-year trial with HealthLink, Northern Health’s Specialist Clinics have switched to HealthLink SmartForms as the standard platform for accepting GP referrals. Previously, referrals would be sent via fax, which often led to technical and readability issues, as some pages might arrive blank or completely black, smeared, only half-pages or illegible.

The new system is not only making the process more streamlined, but is also benefiting patients by having their referrals received correctly the first time, with all the clinical information in it.

“When we receive the referral, there’s no back and forth between GPs and us to get the final copy. It avoids that delay of not getting an appointment on time because the GP sent a fax and it didn’t have enough information in it,” said Christopher Daniel, Specialist Clinics Project Officer – eReferrals.

“The new system ensures our Specialist Clinics get an in-tact referral in one go, rather than multiple unreliable transmissions, additionally reducing the risk of us not receiving the referral or the delay in receiving the referral,” he added.

Since the launch, the team has seen an incredible improvement and a rise in electronic referrals, with great feedback from a number of local GPs.

“It’s going exceptionally well. Electronic referrals from GPs to Northern Health Specialist Clinics continues to grow, as more GPs adopt the technology. As at November 2020, Northern Health received 2,590 referrals (compared to 502 in July). The GPs find this process easier to use and, more importantly, they have confidence that when they transmit it electronically, we receive it. In the past, they might send a fax and wonder if we ever got it,” Christopher said.

“We’ve made great progress but we still have some way to go … a number of GPs are still sending faxes because they don’t know how to send a referral directly from their desktop to ours,” Christopher added.

Maria Tucker, Acting Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, added: “GP adoption of electronic referrals is the key strategy towards mitigating the risk of patient harm through delayed access to clinical services.”

Northern Health is working with HealthLink to develop a number of electronic referral forms to improve the quality of referrals from GPs to meet the requirements of the DHHS Statewide Referral Criteria.

Consultation with six Specialist Clinics has been conducted in the development of these forms. Enhancements to all other electronic referral forms (for the other specialist clinics, community access and allied health services) will include options to update expired referrals, telehealth options and features to allow GPs to indicate patient disability/special needs. The new forms are expected to be released for use by GPs in early 2021.

The Axe the Fax team (left to right): Christopher Daniel, eReferrals Project Officer Specialist Clinics; Terri Fiorenza, Director Health Information Services; Cathy Fletcher, Nurse Unit Manager Specialist Clinics; Bonnie Ferguson, Project Officer Statewide Referral Guidelines Specialist Clinics; Chrissy Nicolaidis, Clerical Manager Specialist Clinics; Samantha Soggee, Director Operations Cancer Services and Specialist Clinics; Karen Overall, Primary Care Liaison


Featured Image: Christopher Daniel and Maria Tucker