Digital front door

Meeting the electronic referral target by October means making changes on both sides of the digital front door, says Brian Gorman, Managing Partner, Channel 3 Consulting

Many organisations are well on their way to achieving the move to electronic referrals (e-RS) by 1October 2018. However, on the other side of this digital front door, services and operations often remain the same - capacity and demand challenges continue, and exceptions and issues remain the norm.

Redesigning services for new digital channels

Many Trusts already have advanced plans in place to manage e-RS implementation including:

• Clear systems and processes for managing and monitoring electronic referrals

• Accurate and reflective Directory of Services (DoS)

• Aligned clinic templates with sufficient capacity to meet demand and waiting time targets

• Clinical job plans which reflect a new way of working and changing demands on clinical time

However, while many organisations consider themselves to be ready for paper switch off in October, they do not all have the strong foundations required to leverage the full scale of opportunities

presented by e-RS. Some of the fundamental reasons for this include an absence of:

• A streamlined process for managing the e-referrals electronically beyond the point of entry

• A clear understanding or mechanism for managing and flexing capacity to meet demand at speciality level

• A Directory of Services (DoS) which accurately reflects the services available including new models of care such as advice and guidance clinics

• Live and accurate view of patient pathways, often reflected by complex workarounds and static Patient Tracking Lists (PTLs)

• Organisational understanding and strong leadership

Done correctly, e-RS has the potential to deliver a much more responsive and transparent service for patients and referrers.

The service configuration challenge

Provider organisations need to define the services they will strategically propose to provide, including how to, and who can, access them. Close understanding of historical and future demand is necessary to inform how resources can be optimised to meet the demand from an instant digital channel.

Once referrals are received, internal infrastructure and processes must support the timely and accurate recording of waiting lists and patient tracking, including cancellations, rejections, and exceptions to ensure timely patient care.

The benefits of getting it right, however, go beyond cost and time savings. Better appointment management will result in fewer missed appointments, fewer inappropriate referrals, and reduced referral to treatment times. Moreover, patients and referrers will benefit from greater choice of appointment times, hospitals and specialists. Done correctly, e-RS has the potential to deliver a much more responsive and transparent service for patients and referrers.

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