Referral scheme to be tried in clinics

A new electronic referral system between doctors and hospital specialists will be trialled by three GP clinics in Marlborough and three in Nelson early next year.

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board clinical support services director James Bowyer said the system would eventually be rolled out across all GPs in the district over the next two years.

The electronic referrals would replace paper letters and faxes when recommending patients for specialist treatments in the hospital setting, Mr Bowyer said.

Pictures and test results could be sent as attachments, he said.

"It's a significant enhancement and, most importantly, it will give GPs the assurance that their referrals have been received and acknowledged," he said.

Paper referrals could get lost, Mr Bowyer said.

The board was working on developing referral templates for each of the different hospital specialists, he said.

The project, which was developed in Canterbury along with the South Island Alliance, was still in its infancy here, he said.

The system in Canterbury reached a milestone in August when it passed 80,000 referrals.

South Island Alliance information services chairman Dr Andrew Bowers said some private healthcare providers had also opted into that system.

"The new system means referrals reach health boards or private providers faster and more reliably than when letters in the post were used," he said.

"We can easily track where referrals have been sent. The health board is then better able to assess how quickly the patient needs to see a specialist, as eReferrals [electronic referrals] use a set template, ensuring all the patient's relevant health information is available."

The Marlborough Express