Digital Health Week: Spotlight on eReferrals

Dr. Steve Mann is an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and has Headshot of Dr. Steve Mannbeen using the OCEAN eReferral system for a year, “in conjunction with the Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty Central Intake process, whereby all referrals for hip and knee arthritis are received centrally and triaged by advanced physiotherapists before being directed throughout the region based on wait times, complexity, and patient or referring physician preference.” While Dr. Mann recognizes the importance of physical examination playing a part in the orthopaedic pre-surgical consultation and prefers to complete new patient assessments in person, he has used the eReferral system to “shift some longer-term follow-up visits to virtual rather than in-person care.” For Dr. Mann, freeing up physical resources is crucial. “We are still extremely limited in terms of our allowed-in-person clinic visits, so every virtual visit represents another patient who can be seen in person, and who often has been waiting a long time to be seen.”

Using the eReferral system can help with the allocation of very scarce in-person resources. Dr. Mann says, “Many of our patients travel considerable distances for their appointments, so they certainly appreciate the convenience of having a visit occur virtually in their own homes, as well as avoiding the often-significant wait times in clinic. For the types of clinical interactions that can usefully occur virtually, this is a definite upside.” After using the eReferral system for a year, Dr. Mann says the system definitely has a place in the increasing scope of virtual health care for its convenience and resource savings. “However, just as FaceTime and Skype are great ways to stay in touch with friends and family who are at a distance, but can’t replace having dinner together, I believe that virtual care should be viewed as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, in-person, hands-on medicine.”