ERMS e-Referral system now used by North Island DHBs

The ERMS electronic request management system that allows health professionals to seamlessly refer patients for further care has been adopted by the first North Island district health board after more than a decade and millions of referrals in the South Island.

The Electronic Request Management System (ERMS) was designed by software developers at Pegasus Health – in partnership with the Canterbury DHB – to speed up health service referrals and shift the process from being paper-based to electronic.

The ERMS programme quickly became the largest referral management system in the country and is now used by all South Island DHBs and health providers.

The ERMS allows patients to be easily and reliably be referred for care from professionals such as hospital specialists, physiotherapists, or midwives. It contains all the information health professionals need to understand the right kind and level of care required.

The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) began using the ERMS system in October in a two-week trial that involved general practices sending electronic referrals to a triaging station at the hospital. The remaining 14 general practices in the district began using the system in December 2021.

ERMS product manager Joanna Jordan and her team were thrilled to help the first North Island district health board begin using the e-Referral system.

Since ERMS was introduced in Whanganui in October 2021, over 600 referrals have been made – predominantly general practices referring people to specialist services.

Due to the success of this partnership in Whanganui, ERMS and WDHB teams are working on the next steps for 2022 including the integration of ERMS into the hospital radiology system, its patient administration system, and eventually, all inbound referrals into the health board.

Whanganui DHB Chief Medical Officer Ian Murphy says using the ERMS system has meant DHB clinicians get all the information they need in one document, minimising the need for follow-up calls and resulting in faster turn-around times in the referral and triage process, leading to better outcomes for patients.

“The focus is always on timeliness alongside safe and high-quality care of patients, and this helps that goal,” he says.

“WDHB required an established and proven solution that could be stood up within a very short timeframe. We also wanted a smooth transition for the GP practices. With ERMS, the level of change management for both sides (referrer and receiver) has been minimal. This has meant easy adoption and buy-in,” he says.

“Referrals are consistent in appearance, therefore making information easy to locate. The clinical snippets reminding referrers of the criteria and requirements also minimise any requests from WDHB clinicians for more information resulting in a more agile response to our community’s needs. The referrers have an assurance that their submitted referrals have been received, thereby eliminating follow-up phone calls. Referrals now have all the information in one document, rather than separate attachments.”

Lachie Smith is a GP at the practice at Aramoho, Whanganui. He was one of the GPs involved in the ERMS pilot. He says the trial rolled out ‘very smoothly and very successfully because it is a tried and tested goodie that has been used by practices in the South Island for a long time.”

“We were very happy for ERMS to come to Whanganui because there were so many opportunities for sharing of information digitally that we were missing out on,’’ he says.

“ERMS is very user-friendly, straight forward and rapid.”

Ken Young is a GP at the Bulls Medical Centre. He says he and his colleagues had wanted an electronic referral system in the region for ‘ages’ and were thrilled when ERMS became available, and how easily it fitted into their practice.

“It’s easy to use and logical. I have been able to access everything I want to and refer patients easily. It’s great to have a simple reference pathway and has the potential to make things so much better and easier for us and patients.”