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Background: Poor coordination between levels of care plays a central role in determining the quality and cost of health care. To improve patient coordination, systematic structures, guidelines, and processes for creating, transferring, and recognizing information are needed to facilitate referral routines.Methods: Prospective observational survey of implementation of electronic medical record (EMR)-supported guidelines for surgical treatment.
Results: One university clinic, two local hospitals, 31 municipalities, and three EMR vendors participated in the implementation project. Surgical referral guidelines were developed using the Delphi method; 22 surgeons and seven general practitioners (GPs) needed 109 hours to reach consensus. Based on consensus guidelines, an electronic referral service supported by a clinical decision support system, fully integrated into the GPs’ EMR, was developed. Fifty-five information technology personnel and 563 hours were needed (total cost 67,000 £) to implement a guideline supported system in the EMR for 139 GPs. Economical analyses from a hospital and societal perspective, showed that 504 (range 401–670) and 37 (range 29–49) referred patients, respectively, were needed to provide a cost-effective service.
Conclusion: A considerable amount of resources were needed to reach consensus on the surgical referral guidelines. A structured approach by the Delphi method and close collaboration between IT personnel, surgeons and primary care physicians were needed to reach consensus.