Why electronic referrals are good news for the region

Thursday April 16, 2015

Canterbury District Health Board welcomes the Minister of Health's recent announcement that the Electronic Request Management System (ERMS) South Island DHBs.

ERMS is an electronic referral tool developed in Canterbury six years ago to improve the way general practices make requests for specialist advice and referred services across both public and private sectors. It handles around 22,600 requests a month at the moment, every one of whom has a faster, smoother patient experience.

General Manager Planning and Funding, Carolyn Gullery says the roll out of ERMS to the rest of the South Island is great news for South Islanders.

"The old method meant you didn't really know whether the referral had been received. And only when the referrer received a 'sorry, can't help' reply could they take the next step, which was simply to try somewhere else," Carolyn says.

"Through ERMS, General Practice teams and community nurses make a referral using an electronic form, which is then is submitted directly to a secure referrals database. From there, requests are delivered automatically to anyone of 800 community and hospital services, both public and private."

ERMS, now South Island wide, means: 

  • Precious time saved for patients and clinicians
  • Delivery of a request is guaranteed and the quality of information is consistently high and always legible in an electronic format
  • People can take the best possible next step in their health journey as soon as possible.

Simon Wynn-Thomas, a General Practitioner at Mount Pleasant Medical Centre and Senior Clinical Leader at Pegasus, says ERMS has received positive endorsement from many of the Canterbury General Practitioners who have used it.

"Most say it's easy to use, saves time and because referrals are sent electronically it's more secure as, unlike posted mail or faxes, they always arrive at their intended destination," he says.

"The real beauty of ERMS from a general practice perspective is that it ensures that the patient has had the appropriate management in the community before referral to secondary care."

The next phase, scheduled to be piloted late this year, will enable those receiving referrals to respond electronically (electronic triage) and provide electronic advice back to support general practice in managing patients in the community.

Importantly, ERMS also analyses demand and supports a management process that can change service provision to better meet demand. Referral data allows General Practice to compare themselves to other practices - an important step in ensuring consistency of care.

Page last reviewed: 18 May 2015
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