Celebrating the South Island's one millionth electronic referral

Wednesday March 23, 2016

​​With a click of the mouse and an 'accepted' message, the one millionth successful electronic request for specialist advice and assessment in the South Island was sent and received late last week. It might not seem something to get excited about at first, but it is.

That request was a vital step in getting the right care for a child perhaps, or for someone's mother or brother. And when you consider it just happened for the millionth time, then maybe you should feel more like celebrating.

This is what Canterbury District Health Board CEO David Meates had to say about reaching this significant milestone for the South Island's Electronic Request Management System (ERMS):

"More than a million everyday successes add up to one very significant one."

"I am pleased and proud to have been part of this achievement, together with our South Island Alliance DHB partners and other key players across our health system. I would like to acknowledge Pegasus Health especially as our development partner for ERMS - they are instrumental to its ongoing success. Support from our other two Canterbury Primary Health Organisations, Rural Canterbury PHO and Christchurch PHO, has also been vital.

"In principle it was a simple idea – to create an electronic system that ensured people didn't get lost in the system.  ERMS makes sure a request gets a response, helps protect patient privacy, and cuts waste out of the system by saving everyone's time."

"ERMS was designed by clinicians, for clinicians, which is why it is so extensively used. The referral rate has climbed dramatically over the past year since it went South Island-wide." Mr Meates says.

ERMS was launched in Canterbury back in 2009 and since then clinicians have clocked up an astonishing 741,000+ referrals in Canterbury alone, and counting.

"ERMS has been designed to support general practice to get the right care or advice for our people. A key component in its success, putting it head and shoulders above other referral models, is that requests can go to any part of the system, whether public or private, and can incorporate community as well as hospital-based services.  

Christchurch GP Martin Seers thinks ERMS is a fantastic tool that improves the quality of care General Practice teams provide. Because it is fast and easy it frees up more time for patients.

"Before ERMS, I would often put referrals to one side and do them all together at the end of the day. Now they are often completed before the patient has left the practice - before I see my next patient. It further improves the quality of care by providing patients with timely access to specialist advice or treatment as needed."

The electronic form is easily accessed through a button in a referrer's Patient Management System or on HealthPathways, and it pre-populates with key patient information such as past medical history and test results that help the specialist receiving the request to make an accurate assessment.

"ERMS has really strengthened the link between community-based care and specialist services. I've been using it for a long time now, but still appreciate every day the difference it makes to providing timely and effective care," Dr Seers says.

Page last reviewed: 24 March 2016
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