February 5, 2010

‘Wizard’ ready to work its magic on referring physicians

‘Wizard’ ready to work its magic on referring physicians

This week, providers and clinical staff at Vanderbilt University Medical Center began accessing a new communication tool that allows them to easily send their clinic notes, discharge summaries, operative notes and medicine lists to a patient's referring providers.

It's called the provider communication wizard. (In the IT lexicon, a wizard is any program enhancement that guides a user through a process step by step.)

The tool is a component of StarPanel, the innovative electronic medical record and clinic workflow application developed at Vanderbilt.

To get to the tool, users select a tab that's set prominently atop the StarPanel interface. There's a brief accompanying tutorial.

Referring clinicians need prompt information about specialist findings and patient status following surgery and clinic visits and at hospital discharge.

When referring clinicians don't routinely receive this information, they become more prone to refer patients elsewhere.

“Handoffs are among the more vulnerable points in any patient care process, so referring clinicians in general have a very real need to know what happens with each patient they send our way for evaluation and treatment,” said C. Wright Pinson, M.D., MBA, deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

“This new tool not only makes this communication hassle-free for our clinicians and their teams, it also tracks how consistently we're performing this communication.”

The wizard is powered by a database of verified contact information for some 22,000 community referring clinicians.

The user selects the patient's referring providers, attaches the relevant clinical documentation from the electronic record and hits send. The system handles the faxing — 97 percent of clinicians in the database having said they would prefer to receive these documents by fax than by mail.

Any unsuccessful transmissions bounce back to a central staff for resolution. (For the few referring providers who prefer receiving these documents by regular mail, the Vanderbilt sender is prompted to select the secretary's electronic in-box for mailing in the clinic.)

For those Vanderbilt clinicians who value supplementing written communication with telephone calls, the tool also provides referring provider phone numbers.

If a referring provider's name doesn't appear in the database, the user enters the name and the town where the practice is located, which allows the central staff to track down the contact information and complete the processing.

What's even more efficient for the user is that the system remembers the patient's referring providers for next time.

The project is led by Jim Jirjis, M.D., MBA, chief medical information officer and medical director of Adult Primary Care. Sue Muse is the project administrator.

The wizard is “huge for the staff and doctors here,” Jirjis said, “because it's very efficient and it reminds people of who needs to be communicated with. It's huge for the docs in the referring provider community because they get much more reliable, responsive communication.

“And it also creates the ability for us to measure and manage how we're doing. Our goal is to have the provider communication wizard become the single way, by policy, that we communicate with referring providers.”