By Kevin Jones, Senior Vice President, Canada at Strata Health
One of the major challenges facing publicly funded health systems is the growth of surgical waitlists.
COVID-19 caused the deferral of hundreds-of-thousands of elective surgeries, fuelling a surgical backlog crisis in Canada. People are waiting dangerously long for procedures, an issue that public health leaders have grappled with since long before the pandemic. As delays grow, so do the risks of poor outcomes for patients, providers, and system finances.
Health leaders are seeking solutions to effectively manage wait lists and coordinate surgical services to clear the backlog and bring wait times back to pre-pandemic levels.
Technology can play an important role in improving referral accuracy, care coordination, and transitions from primary to specialist care in a seamless, transparent, efficient way.
To impact surgical waitlists:
- All referrals from primary to specialist care must be consolidated, validated, and triaged.
- New incoming referrals must also be validated and triaged.
- To avoid readmissions, post-discharge patient placement must be correct.
This first activity is largely manual and can be done with bodies and effort. However, once you’ve brought order to your existing wait list, you can begin to let technology do the heavy lifting on next steps.
The Recommendation: a Central Access Model
Automating referrals from primary care to specialists is an essential foundational effort to tackle the wait list issue, as manual processes often lead to misplaced, delayed, or misrouted referrals.
Without an accurate, real-time view, efforts to manage schedules will continue to be bogged down with data clean up and waitlist purging, and ongoing failures in the referral management process will cause patients to suffer the greatest consequences.
However, it’s important to note that despite the need to streamline the referral management process, automating referrals between primary and specialist care faces several challenges due to:
- Variety of EMR’s in use
- Inconsistent integration capabilities and models
- Decentralized group of stakeholders at either end of the process
To phase tackling these challenges, Strata Health recommends the implementation of a Central Access Model for primary care with iterative integration capabilities (image 1 below).
A Central Access Model provides a single point of access with a more contained initial scope and standardized process for information hand off and acceptance of care from primary to specialist care. A Central Access point minimizes the initial involvement in redesign of the triage and prioritization process for each of the specialities.
The Central Access point can broker appointments directly, or navigate referrals to specialists and clinics to book directly with the patient. Depending on the role in the process (data capture, triage, appointment brokering), the plan can be to phase out, or sustain the Central Access point.
Staged integration involves modern bi-directional interfacing wherever possible, or in its absence, by installing a print driver locally that allows a user to electronically send documents into the eReferral solution without requiring anything from their EMR vendor, minimizing data recapture until direct integration can be achieved.
The solution can also enable Specialists to receive referrals in through the portal or integrate directly to the Specialist EMR (Image 2 below).
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About the Author: Kevin Jones
With a reputation for integrity and accountability, Kevin Jones is a leader in intelligent business development and intuitive client support. An industry veteran, he has a personal commitment to using the power of technology and innovation for good.
Kevin has lent his expertise to every level of healthcare information technology over the past 20 years, allowing him to grow and develop deep insight into the solutions available to healthcare clients. His ability to offer the utmost in client support through an entire project lifecycle has allowed him to spearhead multiple software implementations both nationally and internationally. He leads a team of client services professionals in delivering outstanding service to clients across all levels of health care organizations.
Kevin is the Senior Vice President, Canada at Strata Health and holds a Bachelor of Science from the Thompson Rivers University.
About Strata Health
Strata Health is a Canadian software company that provides referral and service matching technology. We have an extensive history of helping to improve health outcomes, patient experience, and optimizing the use of health care dollars in jurisdictions across Canada and internationally. We look forward to the opportunity to meet to talk about these and other opportunities and to answer any questions you may have.
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