Implementation of an electronic referral system for outpatient specialty care

AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2011:2011:1337-46. Epub 2011 Oct 22.


Poor communication between primary care and specialists often leads to delays, inefficiencies and suboptimal patient outcomes. This study examined implementation of an electronic referral system (eReferral) that creates direct communication between primary care providers and specialist reviewers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to assess factors affecting the success of eReferral implementation; transcripts were analyzed using qualitative methods. Primary and specialty care providers were enthusiastic about the system. Primary care providers had favorable attitudes despite a number of challenges including increased workload due to a shift in tasks from specialists and administrative personnel, poor connectivity, and insufficient hardware. System acceptance was driven by perceptions of improved access to specialty care, better appointment tracking, and improved communication between primary and specialty care providers. Synergy among development processes, implementation practices, and technical factors, including human-centered design, iterative development, a phased rollout, and an intuitive user interface, also fostered uptake of the system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Physicians, Primary Care
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration*
  • San Francisco