More than 100 million specialist referrals are requested in the US each year in ambulatory settings, yet only half of these are completed. Among those that are incomplete, there are multiple process errors, including missing information and communication failure. Such breakdowns in the referral process can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF), which merged in May, have released recommendations for ensuring a closed-loop system in which all relevant patient information is communicated to the correct person through the appropriate channels and in a timely manner.
“Health professionals find current practices highly inefficient, and patients are caught in the middle, sometimes having no idea who’s ultimately responsible for the referral or the clinical findings that emerge as a result,” says Tejal K. Gandhi, MD, MPH, CPPS, Chief Clinical and Safety Officer, IHI. “Our goal was to come up with something far more reliable.”
Closing the Loop: A Guide to Safer Ambulatory Referrals in the EHR Era is the work of a multidisciplinary expert panel convened by IHI/NPSF and supported by a grant from CRICO/Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions. The guide offers general recommendations as well as recommendations specific to each step in the process and to the various stakeholder groups.
Hardeep Singh, MD, and David Y. Ting, MD, who co-chaired the expert panel, will discuss the work during a webinar on this topic, January 10, 2018, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. The program is offered without charge, but registration is required. Register online.