Posted on 2 Mar, 2023 in
Transforming patient care with Consultmed™’s digital referral platform at The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network.
Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) is the largest paediatric health service in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, encompassing two major tertiary hospital campuses in Westmead and Randwick, Sydney. In 2020-2021, SCHN attended to over 173,000 children, including nearly 56,000 admissions and 100,000 children seen in the Emergency Department. To enhance patient care and streamline referral pathways, SCHN recently implemented Consultmed, a state-of-the-art digital referral system.
Before the adoption of Consultmed™, SCHN relied on traditional referral methods, such as phone calls, faxes, and letters, which often resulted in delays and miscommunications. Dr Mary McCaskill, Director of Medical Services & Clinical Governance for SCHN, acknowledged that the previous, legacy referral system made patients’ journeys through the system a “slow process,” compounded by the need to track multiple pieces of paper and order repeat and unnecessary investigations which resulted in treatment delays. With more than 80% of medical referrals to specialists in Australia still sent by fax, it became apparent that a more efficient, reliable, and secure referral system was needed to ensure timely access to quality care for children in need.
The rollout of Consultmed at SCHN began with a comprehensive pilot program in 2022 designed to assess the system’s effectiveness and ease of integration into existing workflows. The pilot phase targeted select departments, with training and support provided to staff members. This initial phase allowed for continuous monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment of the system’s performance, addressing potential challenges and ensuring a seamless transition. The success of the pilot program paved the way for a confident and efficient full-scale implementation across all departments within the SCHN.
Dr Mary McCaskill reported that both clinical and administrative staff strongly voiced their approval of Consultmed. She stated that “it was much more efficient and enabled our entire team to spend far less time chasing bits of paper around, and more time spent with the patient.” This increased efficiency not only benefited the staff but also led to improved patient satisfaction across the care pathway.
On the 1st of February 2023 and the back of a successful pilot, SCHN committed to ‘AxetheFax’ and roll out Consultmed across all specialist departments and services for outpatient referrals. Due to its intuitive interface and minimal training requirements, Consultmed was rolled out across 50+ hospital departments in less than 3 months. Since its implementation, Consultmed has led to significant improvements in referral-to-treatment times, with reduced wait times for outpatient appointments and earlier access to specialist care. The innovative ‘Advice and Guidance’ portal has also improved communication between primary care providers and specialists, promoting a more collaborative approach between treating teams with shared management plans.
For administrative staff at SCHN, the main benefits have been to reduce the burden associated with manually handling paper referrals, including printing, faxing, scanning and uploading them into the Electronic Medical Record. It is estimated that the average time taken to process a paper or fax referral at SCHN has dropped from 12-14 minutes per referral, to 2-3 minutes using Consultmed. When you consider that SCHN receives many thousands of referrals a month, the impressive efficiency gains with using Consultmed has been substantial and given back many hundreds of hours to staff to spend with patients and their families.
Finally, for healthcare managers at SCHN, Consultmed’s powerful analytics capabilities have for the first time provided full visibility of referral pathways, response times and clinical and administrative activity across the Network, allowing resources to be allocated more effectively. The ability to continuously monitor the system at a hospital-wide, department, service or even individual clinician level ensures that the Network remains responsive to emerging population heath needs and can adapt quickly to changes in the healthcare landscape, ensuring that it continues to deliver high-quality, sustainable and patient-centered care.