The 2006 National Cancer Strategy recognised that information systems should be developed to manage cancer services. The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), in collaboration with Healthlink, GPIT and the HSE developed electronic referral forms for breast, prostate, lung and most recently, pigmented lesion cancer. Healthlink worked with the accredited GP practice management system vendors to integrate the forms in the patient record. Once the referral has been submitted, an instant acknowledgement is received to confirm that it has been successfully sent. A response outlining triage and appointment information is sent to the referring GP within 5 working days. Breast, Prostate , Lung and Pigmented Lesion referrals have been rolled out nationally to the designated cancer centres.
The National Electronic General GP Referral Pilot Project was established in 2011 to deliver electronic general referrals, using the HIQA/ICGP standard referral template. This project was run as a collaboration between Healthlink, HSE, ICGP, GPIT, NCCP and the Outpatients Performance Improvement Programme. Similar to the cancer referrals, the general referral form is integrated in the GP software systems which means that much of the patient information is auto-populated thereby cutting down on the time taken to place a referral. Acknowledgements are also sent, confirming that the form has been successfully submitted. The Mater hospital was the first site to go live with phase II of the referrals project having achieved full integration with PatientCentre, their EPR system. From the hospital's point of view the referral is no longer printed on arrival resulting in substantial savings in administrative time due to automation of this key step in the process. The Royal Victoria Eye and Ear hospital also now have integrated referrals.
In 2006 Healthlink introduced Lab Order functionality, giving GPs and Practice Nurses the ability to order blood tests online, replacing the manual order form. Lab Order allows users to choose from a definitive set of tests for the patient then print the order form (including a barcode) which is sent with specimens to the lab. Upon receipt in the lab, the form is scanned by the bar code reader and the order is immediately accessible on the system. There are many benefits to both GP practices and labs including elimination of illegible, incomplete order forms, electronic record of all orders placed by GP plus quicker turnaround of orders and results. This service is available in the Mater lab, St. James's and Cavan General lab.
Hospitals vary in terms of the electronic information they send to GPs, however the full suite of Healthlink messages is as follows:
- Laboratory Results
- Radiology Results
- A & E Attendance Notifications
- Inpatient Admissions
- Death Notifications
- Discharge Notifications
- Discharge Summaries
- OPD Appointment Updates
- Outpatient Clinic Letters
- Waiting List Updates
- Out of Hours Co-op Messages
- Cardiology Reports
- Lab Orders
- Referral Messages Response Messages