Objective: Postdischarge emergency department (ED) communication with family physicians is often suboptimal and negatively impacts patient care. We designed and piloted an online notification system that electronically alerts family physicians of patient ED visits and provides access to visitspecific laboratory and diagnostic information.
Methods: Nine (of 10 invited) high-referring family physicians participated in this single ED pilot. A prepilot chart audit (30 patients from each family physician) determined the baseline rate of paper-based record transmission. A webbased communication portal was designed and piloted by the nine family physicians over 1 year. Participants provided usability feedback via focus groups and written surveys.
Results: Review of 270 patient charts in the prepilot phase revealed a 13% baseline rate of handwritten chart and a 44% rate of any information transfer between the ED and family physician offices following discharge. During the pilot, participant family physicians accrued 880 patient visits. Seven and two family physicians accessed online records for 74% and 12% of visits, respectively, an overall 60.7% of visits, corresponding to an overall absolute increase in receipt of patient ED visit information of 17%. The postpilot survey found that 100% of family physicians reported that they were ‘‘often’’ or ‘‘always’’ aware of patient ED visits, used the portal ‘‘always’’ or ‘‘regularly’’ to access patients’ health records online, and felt that the web portal contributed to improved actual and perceived continuity of patient care.
Conclusion: Introduction of a web-based ED visit communication tool improved ED–family physician communication. The impact of this system on improved continuity of care, timeliness of follow-up, and reduced duplication of investigations and referrals requires additional study.