On August 8th, 2018, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia revised the Referral-Consultation Process guideline.
This revision aims to reduce the confusion patients feel during the referral and consult process and ensure patients remain at the centre of health care. The guideline states that “keeping the patient informed throughout the referral process is of the utmost importance”.
“Waiting for an appointment with a specialist can be nerve-wracking, especially when waiting in the dark ”, stated Heidi M. Oetter MD, CEO and Registrar of CPSBC, “[patients] often feel vulnerable and lost in transition when a family physician refers them to a specialist for a consultation.”
Research and feedback from patients who had been through the referral process revealed there was a problem of communication between all parties. In turn, revisions were made to help reduce these issues. In a statement, Dr. Oetter, highlighted the 3 key changes:
- The consulting physician is most often best suited to contact the patient with the appointment date and time.
- A response from a consultant to a referral should ideally take two weeks
- The time frame for a consultant to provide a follow-up report after seeing the patient should be two weeks to align with the MSP fee code
While the revised guideline will help patients feel more prepared for their appointments, it is expected to add additional work for specialists.
Although there is flexibility within the guidelines, the onus is now on specialists to contact patients with the correct appointment information and requirements, in a shorter amount of time. With some clinics already overwhelmed with the number of manual calls, this adds an extra burden on the front-end staff.
Thankfully, this pain can be easily treated.
Using technology, specialists can reduce the burden of these time-consuming and expensive calls. With automated booking notifications, patients are easily notified of referrals with no extra work for the front-end staff.
Automated notifications enable specialists to send referral notifications to patients and inform them of any specific requirements prior to the appointment including appointment times, date, location, and special instructions.
By combining the new guidelines with simple technology solutions, it creates a more efficient healthcare system and ensures patients are not left in the dark.