Originally appeared in Pulse IT, March, 2015.
General practice software vendor MedicalDirector has added a new specialist referral tool from digital health company HealthShare to its MedicalDirector Sidebar.
Referrals by HealthShare contains a comprehensive Specialist directory that will allow GPs to search for the most appropriate and convenient Specialist and with the click of a button, write a referral that is automatically populated with both the patient’s information and the Specialist’s.
It is the fourth tool available on the MD Sidebar, which also contains the FactSheets by HealthShare patient education tool, now also due to be rolled out with the next releases of Best Practice and Genie.
Referrals by HealthShare is free for GPs to use and contains a comprehensive directory of Specialists in private practice. HealthShare CEO, Rami Weiss, said the company has been developing the tool over the last eight months in consultation with both GPs and Practice Managers.
While Specialist listings are free, there are also limited premium positions where specialists can pay to have their details at the top of the search list, Mr Weiss said.
“Essentially any verified specialist registered with AHPRA is included in the directory for free, and then we have the ability for Specialists who want to have a higher position to be able to advertise at the top of the search results,” Mr Weiss said.
“We will limit that so it doesn’t affect the utility of the GP and they can still see the Specialists from an organic perspective, but there are Specialists who want to inform the GP about certain information that is going to be relevant, such as whether they bulk-bill at the GP’s request or whether they can take urgent appointments or provide no-gap fees for pensioners.”
Mr Weiss said Referrals by HealthShare had been built so it is completely integrated into the normal referral workflow. All GPs have to do is open up the tool from the Sidebar, search for a speciality and the specialist’s location or hospital affiliation, click on search and be presented with a list.
“Then they can click on the Specialist that they want, look through their key information – their specialty areas, hospital affiliations, biography – and if the Specialist is appropriate for the patient, GPs can click on a button that says ‘write referral’ and it automatically copies all of the Specialist’s details into the GP’s customised letter that they use normally for their referral workflow. It is a very quick way for them to complete the process.”
While the tool will be further developed, at the moment it is geared to be tied directly to the GP’s current workflow. The referral letter can be sent by secure messaging if the specialist is set up for that.
The referral tool and its directory are not yet able to integrate with a practice’s internal address book, but Mr. Weiss said feedback from Practice Managers had shown they’d be amenable to adopting HealthShare’s directory as their main address book.
“We worked with a large number of Practice Managers when we were building the product, and their feedback was that they found it to be a big administrative burden to have to keep their own address bookS up-to-date. That’s why they were so supportive of working with us on the referral directory.
“Practice Managers could see that we were improving the quality of the data and they wouldn’t have to worry about updating their address books anymore when Specialists moved practice locations or retired.”
The company will be shortly expanding the Referrals directory to also include Allied Health Practitioners, with psychology and physiotherapy directories expected to go live in April. In the next few weeks, HealthShare will also be launching a non-integrated version of the Referrals directory for GPs who do not use Medical Director.
HealthShare runs a consumer portal at http://www.healthshare.com.au that allows GPs, Specialists and Allied Health Practitioners to create their own profiles. This also features a Q&A platform that allows consumers to ask relevant practitioners questions about their health. This has proved very popular with psychologists and dietitians in particular, Mr Weiss said.
“We have had a huge uptake from the Allied side and there is great engagement on that. We also have quite a few specialists and they look at answering the questions as a way of giving back to the community as well as thought leadership and increasing their referral base. That has been a growing area and we get over 300,000 Australian patients a month coming to healthshare.com.au.”
Allied health practitioners are the main target of another of the company’s products, an online appointments booking system.
While there are other specialist referral products on the market – MEDrefer, for example, is integrated with both Best Practice and Genie Solutions – Mr Weiss said Referrals by HealthShare was targeted at the GP’s existing workflow rather than trying to change the way the referral process is written.
HealthShare’s Medical Director, well-known GP Linda Calabresi, said Referrals by HealthShare promises to be a boon for busy GPs.
“Being able to find the appropriate specialist and write the referral without leaving the patient’s file will simplify the whole referral process and improve efficiency,” she said.