Northern Trust wins Building Better Healthcare Award

Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT), in collaboration with Business Services Organisation (BSO), recently received a national award for an innovative electronic solution for processing hospital referrals sent from GPs to consultants, which has speeded up the decision making process when assessing or triaging the patient. The Trust won the Building Better Healthcare (BBH) award for this year’s “best administration, information or data solution” in the UK with its successful e-Referrals Triage management product. This new approach to referrals saves time and can speed up diagnosis and treatment. The BBH judges described the results as “splendid”.

Previously, paper referrals containing patient information were sent to the Trust which meant progress towards consultant triage was labour intensive and time consuming. After the patient’s initial referral was received, it was printed out by the booking office team and sorted my medical specialty. Details were then noted by hand and recorded on the hospital Patient Administration System (PAS) before print-outs were finally sent by internal post to the relevant consultant. Once the triage decision was recorded on the paper referral, it was posted back to the booking office to be updated on PAS, with an appointment added or the patient being put onto the waiting system. The e-Referrals Triage system is an invaluable 21st century solution to the communication challenge posed by the way patients’ needs are assessed. Its effectiveness lies in the fact that it has been developed by a multi-disciplinary team working on a patient-centred design. There is full traceability from the point at which the GP sends the electronic referral until an appointment is booked or appropriate action is taken.

Consultant Surgeon Mr Jaroslav Novak, who was part of the team that designed the new product, commented: “The magic of this electronic triage is that patient information links to the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record (NIECR) and I can open it at my computer, whereas in the old days GPs sent us a letter by post. I now know immediately the patient’s medical history including results of investigations, with maybe extra information about future appointments with my colleagues from other specialities. In a fraction of a second, it triggers the patient’s hospital records and everything is automatic.”

Mr Novak added: “I get many hundreds of referrals each year, with the health service processing many hundreds of thousands. Since the new electronic triage has been introduced in the Northern Trust, evaluation has shown that 80% of referrals were triaged within three days. As the BBH judge said, while the new system might not be unique, the results achieved and buy-in accomplished between different users is splendid”.

The system has been successfully developed, piloted and introduced in over 20 acute specialities throughout the NHSCT and is being rolled out to other Trusts in Northern Ireland. It has also been sold to health providers in Australia and New Zealand.

15th December 2016

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