Axe the Fax: What Users Think of Electronic Referral.
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Long wait times for elective services are seen as one of the major challenges for Canadian healthcare. Canadians report that they wait longer for specialists than citizens in other countries. The main reason for this is that the referral process is poorly coordinated and leads to delays in care. Electronic referral (eReferral) is seen as a potential means of improving the referral process and enabling faster access to care. There is the potential for national implementation of eReferral in Canada to help achieve this aim. However, existing initiatives have encountered challenges with user adoption and users have continued to use fax. A validated tool was used to survey both users of fax as well as users of eReferral. These two groups of users were then compared. Most family physicians using fax were satisfied overall with the process. This highlighted how challenging any change of this engrained technology will be. There were, however, some significant areas were eReferral was superior to fax. This included response time, the overall quality of referral information, completeness of the information, the timeliness of the information, and the format and layout. There is an opportunity to leverage these findings to support the adoption of eReferral and help reduce wait times.
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