Synchronized Swimming within Pooled Referrals

by Debbie Bathgate RN(NP)

Summer is coming.  Time to think of sun, fun and pools. Pooled referrals to physician consultants is about more than just keeping our patients' heads above water. It is about swimming in synchrony through the sometimes murky waters of the healthcare system.

Recently Saskatchewan Nurse Practitioners (NP's) received a letter dated March 12, 2012 from Dr. Peter Barrett on behalf of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative. It invited NP's to use one of five physician consultant groups who are developing a practice design to pool referrals and decrease wait times. This is part of “Putting Patients First” campaign which has the slogan “Sooner, Safer, Smarter”.

 Pooled referrals work. Practicing as a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, my patients have benefited from being seen and treated sooner, smarter and therefore safer when referred to the pooled group of Saskatoon urologists. These physicians, through Health Quality Council's Chronic Disease Management Collaborative practice re-design process, have used pooled referral successfully for some years.

 But why limit this efficiency to a urology group and only five other physician consultant groups?  I have also successfully used pooled consult requests of other specialist services including cardiology and pediatrics. If the patient has no personal preference of physician in a group of specialists, the consult request is simply addressed to the “____ clinic: next available appointment”.  Or, with some Electronic Medical Records' template limitations, it is more efficient to choose a physician in the group to address the letter, and in the next line in upper case type “OR NEXT AVAILABLE PHYSICIAN”.

 This is all about putting patients first. If the patient prefers one physician, the patient should be referred directly to the preferred physician, with the communication that in some cases the wait may be longer. Patient choice and access are improved.

 This summer the following groups will be informing Saskatchewan Primary Care NP's of details on how they would like to receive pooled referrals:

Please watch for this, make the change. Practice “Sooner, Safer, and Smarter”.

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