What we did
We created a series of template referral letters to be used by the secretaries. Before this, secretaries were typing up each letter, painstakingly entering all the patient’s details and typing the content from an audiotape, an email or an entry on the patient’s record.
The template letters draw in all the patient’s contact details automatically (using mail merge prompts) together with the most recent consultation, and, depending on the referral itself, the patient’s allergies, past medical history and medication. Setting up a template letter may take 10 minutes but once it is created it is saved in the document template library for everyone to use.
The referring doctor sends an electronic message (task) to the secretaries alerting them to the referral. Using the most appropriate template, the secretary creates the referral without any further input from the doctor.
It saves time for everyone. The GP does not need to dictate or write up referrals, saving two to five minutes at the end of the consultation. As long as the consultation has been appropriately documented on the patient’s record, the secretary has all the information needed to generate the letter.
The secretary can also get through the referrals quicker as the information is automatically drawn in, so it only takes around two minutes create the letter.
This also means there is less chance of typos such as transposing numbers in a date of birth or an NHS number. It saves money on headed paper too, as the logo is auto-populated onto normal paper.
From Dr Dominique Thompson and Mary Mellor, Bristol