Palliative care referrals go digital in Kerry University Hospital

The development of the new Palliative Care electronic referral form commenced in January 2019. The palliative care referral, often referred to as a specialist referral, uses the ‘General Referral’ template as a baseline. Specialist referrals allow for an additional set of referral-specific question to be appended to the general referral form.

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The Palliative Care Service team in KUH. Front sitting: Laura Collins, Staff Officer Back Row: Mari O Connell, Director of Nursing; Dr Patricia Sheahan, Consultant in Palliative Medicine; Margaret Goodwin, Admin. Officer; Paula Murphy, Admin. Officer; and Eimear Hallissey Clinical Nurse Manager 3

From a patient care perspective, the benefits of electronic referrals include legibility and traceability while also requiring a minimum set of relevant information to be captured thus facilitating informed decision making. Once a referral has been submitted, the GP receives an instant acknowledgement indicating it has been successfully delivered. GPs also receive a response from the hospital within 5 days of sending the referral, outlining that it has been triaged.

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Neurolink was the first electronic referral developed by Healthlink in 2007. The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) referrals were enabled in 2009 and the General referral form in 2013. All referrals have since been integrated into the 4 accredited GP practice systems meaning that GPs can create referrals quickly and easily from within their patient charts. At this point electronic referrals are in use in every public hospital around the country and also in the majority of private hospitals. Starting with a humble 8 electronic referrals processed through Healthlink in 2007 this figure is already in excess of 464,000 referrals in 2019. To date almost 1.3 million electronic referrals have been processed by Healthlink.

The national palliative care referral form, having being agreed upon by the national clinical lead for that discipline and approved by Irish College of General Practitioners Quality in Practice group (ICGP’s QiP), facilitated an electronic format which has been available to GPs in Kerry since July 2019.

Dr Patricia Sheahan, Consultant in Palliative Medicine, stated 'This project supports the ICT recommendations for future developments identified in the Adult Palliative Care Services Model of Care for Ireland launched in April 2019'.

Mari O'Connell DON KSPCS acknowledges the great work, time and effort involved by Eimear Hallissey and Healthlink team to introduce this new system to the KSPCS. This is a positive improvement initiative to the service.