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eReferrals could save €2.6 million annually in administration costs

The estimated print and post costs saving year to date of the eReferral system is €85,426, the Medical Independent (MI) has been informed. The projected annual print/post cost saving if all referrals were transmitted electronically would be €1.3 million, while detailed studies have identified annual administrative savings, which if applied to Ireland, could amount to €2.6 million, eHealth Ireland data stated.

As of June 2016, all publicly-funded hospitals can now receive eReferrals from GPs, with the usage rate more than doubling from 8 per cent in January to 16 per cent in June as a percentage of all OPD referrals, eHealth Ireland said.

There were over 60,000 eReferrals received by public hospitals between January and July this year. Based on NTPF data, 60 per cent of all OPD referrals to University Hospital Kerry in June 2016 were made using eReferrals. 

Phase 2 of the National eReferral Programme will integrate with the National iPM Patient Administrative System (PAS), implement speciality referral forms and provide patient access to the status of their referrals. 

A recent survey of GPs who receive results electronically from NIMIS demonstrated that 89.5 per cent no longer required a paper copy of the report.

GPs are expressing high levels of satisfaction and none have reverted to printed reports, eHealth Ireland said.  The majority — 81 per cent — of hospitals have reported that there are fewer calls from GPs.

“The eReferral is a great example of eHealth Ireland delivering a solution that matches patient need and clinical efficiency equally. The delivery of this solution by eHealth Ireland marks the start of a programme of work that will digitise the way in which healthcare is delivered. This plan is over a 10-year period, but each year there will be projects delivering person-centred solutions, driven by clinicians, implemented throughout Ireland,” Minister for Health Simon Harris commented on the figures.

Meanwhile, the HSE is still awaiting a decision from the Department of Health on its submitted business case to introduce an electronic health record (EHR) across the HSE. As revealed by MI earlier this year, the EHR system, if approved, will cost an estimated €875 million to implement over the next 10 years.

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