Far too often our referral and consultation process fails, breaking the continuity of care, and jeopardizing the health of our patients.
This is most evident in the Health Quality Council of Alberta's December 2013 Continuity of Patient Care Study.
In their report, the HQCA details multiple breaks in the continuity of care by a fax-based referral process.
For example, the HQCA (2013) study details one instance where:
A patient required a yearly follow up with a specialist; when the patient’s specialist retired the family doctor’s office faxed a referral to another specialist. When the patient inquired about the appointment 10 months later (and after not being contacted) she was told there was no record of a faxed referral. (p. 12).
As well, the HQCA also details an instance where a clinic faxed a referral and was unaware that the specialist "to whom the referral was faxed was away for an extended period of time" (Health Quality Council of Alberta, 2013).
It can be difficult to identify the shortcomings of a system we've been using on a daily basis. We often downplay the deficiencies or dismiss them altogether. It's common for us to express the view that our system works just fine.
And that might be true. Your current system of sending referrals might have been working fine for years.
Your fax machine might work just fine.
Until the day it doesn't.
And on the day the fax machine fails, the most distressing part of that breakdown in the continuity of care will not simply be a garbled fax or overlooked document; it will be a referral for a patient: a request for care that can have drastic consequences on the quality of life of the patient.
dr2dr was specifically designed to address the problems and points of failure of the current, outdated, and often insecure referral systems in use today.
In their follow-up report, the HQCA detailed the role of secure messaging in the patient referral process. The HQCA report identified the requirement that “all healthcare providers are aware of the status of the referral” (Health Quality Council of Alberta, 2016).
By adopting dr2dr as the preferred communications system, all physicians involved in the referral process will be fully aware of the status of the referral. dr2dr’s built-in message tracking and read receipts ensure all physicians are aware of the date and time a referral was created, sent, received, read, and updated. There is no need to worry about whether or not you've recorded the date and time you sent the referral, or if the referral was received and read; dr2dr does that automatically.
The idea of a fully-standardized, auditable, and completely trackable communication system is not a dream or fantasy: it is a reality. With dr2dr, the system exists, and with it, we have the ability to improve the standard of care for every Albertan. But that reality relies on every healthcare provider choosing to make dr2dr the standard communication system.
The healthcare community has recognized the need for this system. In their report, the HQCA (2013) explains:
When a reliable electronic referral system is developed and functioning, the net benefit to Albertans will not be realized until all healthcare providers are using the system to manage the referral and followup processes for patients who require specialized healthcare services. (p. 6)
Only when all healthcare providers are using dr2dr will we be able to provide the most informed, trackable, and up-to-date continuity of care for all of Alberta.
Health Quality Council of Alberta. (2013). Continuity of patient care study. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Health Quality Council of Alberta; December 2013.
Health Quality Council of Alberta. (2016). Improving continuity of care: key opportunities and a status report on recommendations from the 2013 continuity of patient care study. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Health Quality Council of Alberta; April 2016.