Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
05:49 PM

eReferral System Boosts Medical Center Bookings

A portal-based referral system from Carefx and a clinical information exchange from GE Healthcare increase appointments and reduce patient no-shows.

Over the last nine years, Boston HealthNet has been rolling out a mix of e-medical record systems at each of its 15 community healthcare centers. Those EMR systems include GE Centricity, Epic, and NexGen. Yet, at the medical center, another mix of EMR systems are used, including GE Centricity for outpatient visits, Eclipsys for inpatients, and Picis for emergency department care.

That lack of software consistency and interconnectivity made it difficult for patient data to be exchanged among doctors at the community centers and the medical center, adding to the frustrations in referrals.

So in June, with help from GE, Boston Medical Center finished developing its new CIE, which now allows doctors at the community centers and medical center to easily and securely access patient's data from the diverse mix of EMR systems used at Boston HealthNet.

The exchange was built using industry health information exchange specifications, including those from HITSP (Health Information Technology Standards Panel) and IHE International, said Vengco. The CIE allows doctors to access patient data through local federated repositories as well as through central repositories of data, Vengco said.

"The beauty of the [eReferral ] portal is that it plugs into the CIE," which allows the appointment coordinators to send out to specialists electronic packages of "links" to pertinent patient data prior to the visit, including information about allergies, medications, symptoms, and clinical notes.

Since launching the eReferral portal on the CIE, Boston HealthNet has reduced the number of patient-no shows for referred specialist appointments and has increased successful referral bookings from 30% to 50%. Further improvements are anticipated, Vengco said. "This boosts revenue and satisfaction levels" among physicians and patients alike, he said.

The boost in revenue related patient referrals is important for Boston HealthNet especially now, said Vengco. That's because state subsidies for the care provided to low income patients has been reduced in recent years related to Massachusetts' recent healthcare reform. At the same time, while there are now fewer uninsured patients in Massachusetts, state payments for healthcare services and other various state subsidies have been reduced, said Vengco.

Finally, in addition to the new eReferral portal that's improving appointment bookings, the medical center is also using the CIE and Carefx portal technology to track patients who receive seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccinations from Boston HealthNet providers.

"The CDC has raised guidelines for flu vaccination patients," including sequencing of when seasonal and H1N1 shots should be given, said Vengco. The portal helps caregivers record when patients or Boston HealthNet employees receive their vaccinations, as well as track any flu-related symptoms or side effects they report.

"The portal makes vaccination tracking easier, too," he said.

Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania, the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and a range of large and small healthcare providers are using mobile apps to improve care and help patients manage their health. Find out how. Download the report here (registration required).

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