GPs want clinical handovers, not discharge summaries

Partridge Street General Practice is all about professional, comprehensive, and empowering General Practice care by our GPs. When we refer our valued patients for treatment elsewhere we promote the same high standards, values, and communication  that we provide. A letter, referral, or phone call is just part of the standard Partridge Street General Practice service – it’s good clinical handover. Dr Nick Tellis recently collaborated with some excellent GPs in writing an article for the Medical Journal of Australia’s online Insight Blog on ways to improve communication during these times and stressing the importance of better clinical handover. It’s another one of the ways Partridge Street General Practice provides Better Healthcare for our valued patients. Read on.

 

This is the third article in a monthly series from members of the GPs Down Under (GPDU) Facebook group, a not-for-profit GP community-led group that is based on GP-led learning, peer support and GP advocacy and was originally published at the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) Insight Blog here

 

“PASSING the baton” describes what health care professionals try to achieve as care of patients is transferred between providers in our complex health care systems. The topic of safe and effective clinical handover comes up repeatedly in discussions on GPDU.

 

It is apparent that the impacts from delayed or poor clinical handover on patient care across the country are significant, under-reported, and have a profoundly negative effect on the care patients receive.

 

Dropping the baton

 

First-hand accounts of treatment delays, duplication of testing, medication errors, and unplanned readmissions are frequently discussed by GPs. Recent clinical case discussions have included a patient in palliative care being transferred to a hospice on a Friday afternoon with no clinical handover, and a 3-month delay in the completion of a discharge summary for a truck driver who was admitted with a myocardial function.

 

The safety concerns related to poor clinical handover are not new: it’s a problem the health care industry and doctors as a profession have been grappling with for decades. Poor clinical handovers are wasteful of limited resources. How can we improve patient outcomes and “drop the baton” less often?

 

Rules of the game

 

The National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS) and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) define clinical handover as; “the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient, or group of patients, to another person or professional group”. Appropriate clinical handover is a requirement of the NSQHS. The ACSQHC notes the importance of “transition of care” that “ends only when the patient is received into the next clinical setting”. The Australian Council on Healthcare Standards EQuIP National Standard 12, in particular, specifies the planned provision of transfer information, including results of investigations.

 

Breakdown in the transfer of clinical information has been identified as one of the most important contributing factors in serious adverse events, and is a major preventable cause of patient harm.

 

Why is clinical handover from hospitals to GPs done so inconsistently for patients transitioning from our major private and public institutions? The benefits of passing the baton smoothly are clear. It’s time to coach the team to get it right.

 

Timing is everything

 

Health services continue to debate the appropriate timeframe for communicating with the GP who is continuing the patient’s care. Timeliness of clinical handover is a topic that comes up frequently. Hospital targets for transfer of care communications vary widely. A recent discussion on GPDU identified several targets within one small geographical area, ranging from “at the point of discharge”, “48 hours after discharge” and “5 days after discharge”.

 

GPDU dragon head-3

 

The reality is that few patients leave hospital with an effective clinical handover. Some will be received within the hospital’s current targets; however, many clinical handovers are not received for weeks, months or, as one post highlighted, years after the patient care is transferred. Some never occur.

 

Many GPs are asking whether these targets are consistent, appropriate, acceptable or safe. A robust discussion took place after GPs were approached to complete a survey that included a question asking what conditions should warrant a discharge summary on discharge, and what the acceptable timeframe for receiving a discharge summary should be.

 

The overwhelming consensus was that the gold standard should be clinical handover on discharge for all patients. Many were frustrated that this question even needed to be asked. Some GPDU members wondered whether this was a trick question aimed at moving the goalposts further away from quality patient care.

 

Services promoting clinical handover to GPs on discharge were highlighted. The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service was identified as a provider that was actively trying to effect positive change. They received plaudits from the wider GP community simply by having a discharge summary management policy specifying complete discharge summaries available at the time of patient discharge.

 

It is well known in GP circles that starting late ensures that you will run late all day. Timely discharge summaries aren’t late. Timing is everything when you want to be a frontrunner.

 

Don’t fumble the handover

 

The consensus among GPs is that well timed, efficient, effective and safe clinical handover, at or before the point of transition of care is essential. Alternative strategies risk adverse outcomes. Clinical handover must be a standardised process between clinicians.

 

Returning to the athletics track, we can see a clear difference between a handover, a throw, and a drop. Highly trained athletes accept nothing less than a smooth handover – nor should highly trained clinicians. Delegating the handover to non-clinicians, including nurses and medical students, is not good enough. Supervision and ongoing coaching of clinicians is vital.

 

The baton is passed between people not machines

 

Imagine the difference electronic systems could make to this smooth handover. Sadly, this smooth electronic handover exists only in the imagination.

 

In the real world, GPs are grappling with being thrown links to hospital electronic records through systems such as “The Viewer”. Investigations are likely to be uploaded (after a delay) to MyHealthRecord. These are raw data, unfiltered and disorganised, and more of a throw than a handover. Being thrown raw data and being expected to catch them in this way is akin to a hospital doctor being given the login to the GP clinic’s patient management system and being expected to extrapolate a referral.

 

Personal bests are set; medals are won

 

The late Sir Roger Bannister ran the 4-minute mile and reset the expectations for all that followed him. GPs and their discussions can highlight outstanding clinical handovers and applaud initiatives and hospitals that are doing it right. Feedback and constructive criticism can be passed back to hospitals that are raising the bar. Medal-winning performances show the possible and provide a model for future improvement. GPs are uniquely placed to spot the talent and report the score widely and rapidly.

 

Eyes on the prize: what’s the next goal?

 

If we can normalise the clinical handover to young GPs who are the future of general practice, it will encourage them to demand it of their hospitals.

 

Hospitals are incredible places, but the aim is for patients to return home to their communities and trusted GPs. They come home. Their GPs are waiting, willing and able. We can do better, and we will. We extend an open hand to our amazing hospitals. Pass us the baton – we won’t drop it.

 

clinical handover

 

Dr Katrina McLean is a Gold Coast-based GP, Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Bond University, and a GPDU administrator.

 

Dr Michael Rice is past-president of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland, an educator of students and registrars, a long term resident and rural GP in Beaudesert. He’s a keen user of social media.

 

Dr Nick Tellis is passionate about great general practice. He’s a proud GP, beachside Adelaide practice owner, and a happy new father. He blogs at www.partridgegp.com when not administrating on GPDU.

Contact Dr Nick Tellis at drnt@partridgegp.com.au or 0882953200 if You are a Great GP and want a Better Place to practice great medicine!

 

join the team

 

The Last Referral

 

rey offers pen for luke to do a referral
Rey offers a pen to Luke to write a Referral

 

 

 

The good GP has a stewardship role in the Australian medical system and part of this is referring to subspecialist and hospital care. This is an important role and we don’t take it lightly. We want to do our best for our patients and help them get the care they deserve. One of the challenges is referring to public hospitals, where our referrals sometimes get ‘bounced’ back to us. In private practice, for the patient to receive a (Federal) Medicare Benefit (like when you see Your GP), the GP referral must be to a named provider (Dr Smith, Dr Jones, for example). When referring to a public hospital, there has historically been no Medicare rebate for the patient – public hospitals are funded by the State Governments and Medicare is funded by the Federal Government, and care is free at the point of service. This is changed recently, and public hospitals are now using Medicare funds to run their services. Therefore they now seek named referrals. But to who? It’s very hard to find out exactly which doctor will be seeing you, and so it’s hard to do a named referral, which may delay you being seen.

 

 

 

Dr Mark Raines has written an excellent piece on the role of referrals – I’ve taken some sections and highlighted them below, but you can read the whole piece here.

 

 

In Australia you don’t need a Referral to see a (sub-) Specialist. So, say you wanted to see a Plastic Surgeon about a skin lesion, you can just find a Plastic Surgeon on the internet or ask a friend and make an appointment and off you go. But be prepared for a bill – sometimes a really big bill. This is because, you won’t be able to access a Medicare rebate for the Plastic Surgeon’s fees. To do so you need to first have a valid referral from your GP. But it is not as simple as just calling your GP and asking for a referral.

 

 

 

 

Referrals from a GP are valid for 12 months whereas referrals from one sub-specialist to another are only valid for 3 months (for example when the surgeon that fixes your knee refers to the medical specialist to look after your heart). GPs can also do INDEFINITE referrals – for when you are seeing the same sub-specialist for the same problem for a long period of time (for example when a heart specialist is looking after an ongoing heart problem). Remember though, often your GP can manage your ongoing conditions very well together with your sub-specialist – saving you money and making it more convenient for you!

 

 

 

There are, however, rules!

 

 

 

Backdating Referrals

As a Referral is a legal document, Medicare does not permit backdating a Referral.

A Specialist can see a patient without a valid referral only in an emergency. Apparently, if your dog ate your referral, or another good excuse, there is a exemption available for you to claim your rebate if the Specialist notes that the “Referral is lost”. I am sure that Medicare would get suspicious if this happened a lot. Medicare do audit what GP’s and Specialists get up to make sure the rules are being followed. There are fines for not following the rules!

If you need a Referral make sure you see your GP before seeing the Specialist if you wish to get a Medicare rebate for the service. Asking your GP for a backdated Referral is like asking the Specialist to forward date your consultation so you can get a Referral. Both are not permitted under Medicare.

 

Backdating a referral is stating, in writing, that the doctor saw the patient BEFORE they actually did. Therefore…

 

Seeing a patient on Friday and writing a referral to a sub-specialist dated Monday for a consult that occurred on Tuesday is FRAUD.

 

Seeing a patient on Friday and providing a certificate dated Friday stating that the patient says they were unwell Monday and Tuesday is legally OK.

 

 

Some more rules and regulations.

 

 

 

directive+medicare+billing+outpatients

 

 

 

medicare+directive+and+outpatient+private+practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_8445-2

 

 

 

So when You need a referral – or it’s time to manage Your health more conveniently – You can see any of our Great GPs right here:

 

 

 

Dr Gareth Boucher

 

 

 

Dr Penny Massy-Westropp

 

 

 

Dr Monika Moy

 

 

 

Dr Katherine Astill

 

 

 

Dr Nick Mouktaroudis

 

 

 

Dr Nick Tellis

 

 

Dude, where’s my Outpatients?

Hi from South Australia! Summer has come! Our flagship hospital and one of the most expensive buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (nRAH), came online in September 2017 after a 2 year wait.

 

 

nRAH New Royal Adelaide Hospital

 

 

 

Another big change to the South Australian Hospital System is that the Repatriation General Hospital is gone. Where did the subspeciality clinics go? See below!

 

 

Right Here!

 

arrow down

 

 

 

RGH Clinics – Quick Reference Guide as at November 2017

 

 

 

SALHN Outpatient Clinics Locations and Details

 

 

 

4th Generation Rehab Clinics

 

 

 

 

Bernie Cummins (see below) previously spoke to the Southern Regional GP Council about Outpatients Services in SA and she generously spoke to us again about how things will proceed over the coming months and years.

 

 

 

Here is some information she prepared.

 

 

 

 

royal adelaide hospital and nRAH and outpatients and health pathways

 

 

 

You can find further information right here.

 

 

gpdu.jpg

 

 

The good GP has a stewardship role in the Australian medical system and part of this is referring to subspecialist and hospital care. This is an important role and we don’t take it lightly. We want to do our best for our patients and help them get the care they deserve. One of the challenges is referring to public hospitals, where our referrals sometimes get ‘bounced’ back to us. In private practice, for the patient to receive a (Federal) Medicare Benefit (like when you see Your GP), the GP referral must be to a named provider (Dr Smith, Dr Jones, for example). When referring to a public hospital, there has historically been no Medicare rebate for the patient – public hospitals are funded by the State Governments and Medicare is funded by the Federal Government, and care is free at the point of service. This is changed recently, and public hospitals are now using Medicare funds to run their services. Therefore they now seek named referrals. But to who? It’s very hard to find out exactly which doctor will be seeing you, and so it’s hard to do a named referral, which may delay you being seen.

 

 

 

So, as a public service, we’re Here to Help! Bernie Cummins (Director of Nursing Statewide Outpatient Reform) has provided the following documents to help GPs and patients navigate this system and avoid the ‘named referral bounce’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

directive+medicare+billing+outpatients

 

 

 

medicare+directive+and+outpatient+private+practice

 

 

 

 

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

 

 

 

img_8445-2

 

 

 

You can see any of our Great GPs right here:

 

 

Dr Gareth Boucher

 

 

Dr Penny Massy-Westropp

 

 

Dr Monika Moy

 

 

Dr Katherine Astill

 

 

Dr Nick Mouktaroudis

 

 

Dr Nick Tellis

 

 

The New Royal Adelaide, Ramping Up and Down, and Health Pathways PS: Where did the Repat go?

Hi from South Australia! Winter is here but change is coming. Our flagship hospital and one of the most expensive buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, the New Royal Adelaide Hospital (nRAH), is about to come online in September after a 2 year wait.

 

 

 

Another big change to the South Australian Hospital System is that the Repatriation General Hospital is gone. Where did the subspeciality clinics go? See below!

 

 

Right Here!

 

arrow down

 

RGH Clinics – Quick Reference Guide as at November 2017

 

 

 

Bernie Cummins (see below) previously spoke to the Southern Regional GP Council about Outpatients Services in SA and she generously spoke to us again about how things will proceed over the coming months and years.

 

 

 

Here is some information she prepared.

 

 

 

royal adelaide hospital and nRAH and outpatients and health pathways

 

 

 

You can find further information right here.

 

 

 

 

 

The good GP has a stewardship role in the Australian medical system and part of this is referring to subspecialist and hospital care. This is an important role and we don’t take it lightly. We want to do our best for our patients and help them get the care they deserve. One of the challenges is referring to public hospitals, where our referrals sometimes get ‘bounced’ back to us. In private practice, for the patient to receive a (Federal) Medicare Benefit (like when you see Your GP), the GP referral must be to a named provider (Dr Smith, Dr Jones, for example). When referring to a public hospital, there has historically been no Medicare rebate for the patient – public hospitals are funded by the State Governments and Medicare is funded by the Federal Government, and care is free at the point of service. This is changed recently, and public hospitals are now using Medicare funds to run their services. Therefore they now seek named referrals. But to who? It’s very hard to find out exactly which doctor will be seeing you, and so it’s hard to do a named referral, which may delay you being seen.

 

 

 

So, as a public service, we’re Here to Help! Bernie Cummins (Director of Nursing Statewide Outpatient Reform) has provided the following documents to help GPs and patients navigate this system and avoid the ‘named referral bounce’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

directive+medicare+billing+outpatients

 

 

 

medicare+directive+and+outpatient+private+practice

 

 

 

 

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favour!

 

 

 

img_8445-2

 

 

You can see any of our Great GPs right here:

 

 

Dr Gareth Boucher

 

 

Dr Penny Massy-Westropp

 

 

Dr Monika Moy

 

 

Dr Katherine Astill

 

 

Dr Nick Mouktaroudis

 

 

Dr Nick Tellis