Two doctors in office having discussion

Digital referrals to improve access to outpatient services

30 November 2021

eHealth NSW is working with the Ministry of Health and clinicians from Local Health Districts to deliver a new state-wide digital Outpatient Referral Management system.

There is currently no standard approach to referral management across the state, and many GP practices and outpatient clinics still rely on paper-based processes including fax, post, and email.

Engage Outpatients program

Known as the Engage Outpatients program, this new digital solution will ensure referrals from GPs to clinicians in the outpatient hospital setting, are managed more efficiently. It also notifies referrers and patients of referral outcomes, such as when the referral is accepted by the outpatient clinic.

The digital referrals solution is currently in development with the prototype to be trialed in Northern NSW (NNSWLHD) and Sydney Local Health Districts (SLHD) early in 2022. GP eReferrals to the Lismore Base Hospital Speciality Outpatient Clinics and the Lismore Pain Clinic have already been in use by a small number of northern NSW general practices to ensure it is appropriate for wider adoption.

General Manager at Lismore Base Hospital, Ian Hatton said: “This will help staff work more efficiently, streamline the secure sharing of patient information between GPs and outpatient services, and provide a better user experience for referrers. We’re really excited about this project.”

Northern NSW GP, Dr David Glendinning said, “I can now see services that I didn't even know were available at the hospital which really reduces administration time.”

“For patients, often the hardest thing is not knowing what is happening, they are waiting to go and see a specialist, they are worried. As a GP you can now say to them, the hospital has received the referral, they are triaging it and have allocated a time,” Dr Glendinning said.

Two doctors in office having discussion
The Engage Outpatients program will ensure referrals from GPs to clinicians in the outpatient hospital setting are managed more efficiently.

Focus of the program

The Engage Outpatients program focuses on three key areas:

  1. Service Practitioner Directory (NHSD) - an up-to-date directory of NSW Health Outpatient clinical staff and services for GP referrers. It will centrally store, manage, and provide access to available outpatient services and associated providers to support secure messaging.
  2. Referral Hub - to provide a state-wide view to track, report and enable a statewide dashboard for viewing outpatient clinics and service demand.
  3. Referral triage and management – a state-wide electronic referral management system providing anytime, anywhere referral management and triaging for outpatient clinics as well as timely notifications back to GP referrers and patients.

eHealth NSW is engaging with a range of stakeholders to assist in the development and design of the prototype and its future suitability to be scaled across the state.