BMJ Open Qual. 2021 Jul;10(3):e001323. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2020-001323.
Interspecialty referrals for increasingly complex hospital inpatients are common and miscommunication often leads to delays in patient care. In a district general hospital, a web-based system generated an email referral, which lacked visibility and tracking/audit of the process, with no record generated automatically in paper inpatient notes or electronic patient records (EPR). We aimed to improve the visibility and safety of the interspecialty referral system.We canvassed stakeholders, informally and via an online satisfaction survey, collecting qualitative and quantitative data about attitudes to the existing system, generating ideas for change. We process mapped the system, identifying points of weakness. We adapted our EPR system, using a work-around solution, to develop a form that could be emailed from the EPR. This generated a permanent record within the EPR and an electronic record of the referral having been sent. We measured the visibility of referrals and responses within the EPR. We generated an online training 'how-to' video and reaudited stakeholder satisfaction.There was a significant increase in the proportion of junior doctors satisfied or very satisfied with the interspecialty referral system (27/31 postintervention; 87.1% vs 26/55 preintervention; 47%; p<0.0001) and more believed that the visibility was adequate or very adequate (24/31 postintervention; 77.4% vs 9/55 preintervention; 16.4%; p<0.0001). Visibility of referrals by project team members on the EPR increased from a baseline of 3.5% to 83.6% and the visibility of responses to these referrals on the EPR increased from 4.6% to 40.7%. Qualitative feedback was excellent, hospital executive approval was gained and our work-around system spread to non-team members.We developed a more visible and reliable interspecialty referral system, adapting existing EPR capabilities, which was popular with users and led to cultural change in interspecialty referral responders. A formal EPR redesign, informed by our project, is in development.