Victoria's e-referral project steams ahead

Victoria's e-referral project steams ahead

Summary: The Victorian state government is pushing ahead with plans to implement electronic referral functionality within the state's medical sector. This week the state's Department of Human Services -- which is responsible for health and other community services -- called for an external consultant to develop a business case evaluating current e-referral activities in Victoria and examining the path forward towards universal use of e-referral in the state.

SHARE:
1

The Victorian state government is pushing ahead with plans to implement electronic referral functionality within the state's medical sector.

This week the state's Department of Human Services -- which is responsible for health and other community services -- called for an external consultant to develop a business case evaluating current e-referral activities in Victoria and examining the path forward towards universal use of e-referral in the state.

The business case will particularly examine the costs and benefits to the state if e-referral was to implemented as recommended by DHS's e-Referral Architecture Framework -- a key document developed in mid-2006 in consultation with industry.

E-referral sees referral requests (for example, for specialist care) transferred electronically between medical groups in both the public and private sectors, as opposed to through more traditional means such as paper.

According to DHS's Web site, e-referral is being undertaken in some agencies and hospitals throughout Victoria -- with pockets having well-established, "best practice" traditions in the area.

The department also sees potential for e-referral outside the medical sector. "The scope of the e-Referral project is broader than just the health sector, including the transmission of referrals related to housing, child protection, family services, juvenile justice and other referrals for provision of welfare services," the department wrote in tender documents. "A referral can be exchanged in these 'non-health' domains with the same purpose."

DHS will appoint an external consultant to develop the e-referral business case by early July, with the report to be delivered by late October this year.

The nitty-gritty
DHS's vision for e-referral sees both technology systems and standards heavily involved.

For example, the department's proposed e-referral architecture uses a service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach, which DHS describes as meaning that "different components or services can be plugged in to provide functionality".

SOA refers to a technology environment where end-user services can be disassociated from their underlying platforms and data is dissociated from the processes acting on it.

"The solution includes an electronic gateway that provides a technology-independent and open, standards-based solution using the Internet, particularly Web services, for communication," the department wrote in tender documents. "This design is scalable and distributed, so that when implemented with appropriate support and maintenance, it will give high availability."

Existing medical client management systems from within DHS and non-government organisations will connect into the e-referral architecture.

The consultants developing the aforementioned business case will need to take notice of state Office of the CIO guidelines for business case preparation, in addition to National e-Health Transition Authority papers and standards, and Standards Australia standards for electronic interchange of information in the healthcare sector.

DHS's technology operations are headed up by the department's chief information officer Andrew Howard, who has been in the role for some nine months.

Topics: Health, Government AU

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Electronic referral is taking off in Victoria

    The number of electronic referrals (e-referrals) sent and received between Victorian health and human services agencies nearly doubled in 2006-07. Additionally, the number of health and human services agencies able to send and receive e-referrals nearly doubled.

    What is e-referral?

    E-referral allows, with consent, a standard set of consumer health and care information known as the Service Coordination Tool Templates to be shared securely between services.

    According to a report by KPMG, the use of e-referral can result in a 30-minute time saving when compared with traditional referral methods. In addition, e-referral enables quicker multiple referrals - an increasingly common requirement for consumers with multiple and complex needs.

    Developing e-referral

    The Primary Health Branch has worked with DHS program areas and the 31 Primary Care Partnerships (PCPs) to establish agreed standard service coordination practices including e-referral standards, feedback requirements, and requirements to support the consented and secure sharing of client information.

    The branch is now working with Victorian and national stakeholders to:

    â?¢ secure further investment dollars for the e-referral change management and capacity building work of the PCPs; and

    â?¢ further develop the standards and infrastructure that support e-referral in Victoria.

    Services advocate for e-referral

    Ann-Marie Deeker, Eastern Health's Emergency Care Coordinator, is a great advocate for e-referral.

    'E-referral, and the agreed common practices that underlie it, has supported us to link in more strongly with other services,' she says.

    'When we e-refer we know that we will get good quality and quick referral feedback and as a result we feel confident to refer more broadly than before. We love it!'

    Further information

    More detailed information on e-referral in Victoria is available from http://www.health.vic.gov.au/pcps/publications/ereferral_summary.htm.
    anonymous