Public Health e-Referral Projects and Tools

Access to the right healthcare at the right time can make all the difference in a patient’s long-term health, particularly when it comes to linking to preventative and community health services.

One way to make it easy for patients to access these important health services, like tobacco cessation or diabetes prevention programs, is by enabling their provider to directly refer to these services from the electronic health record (EHR). (EHRs are also called electronic medical records, or EMRs.) This type of referral is called an e-Referral (electronic referral). It is much faster than a traditional phone or fax referral, which also makes it easier, and more likely, for the provider to make the referral.

How e-Referrals Work

e-Referrals send rapid, secure, two-way messages between a healthcare provider and the community organization offering the health service through the patient’s EHR.

For example, using e-Referral, a provider seeing a patient who wants to quit smoking can send an immediate referral to the Colorado QuitLine during a routine office visit. The Colorado QuitLine can then send progress updates directly to the EHR, allowing the provider to stay abreast of their patient's progress toward quitting smoking.

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All messages sent through e-Referral are HIPAA-compliant to protect patient privacy.

Denver Public Health's Community Resource Inventory Service for Patient e-Referral (CRISPeR) project builds on this model by incorporating a community resource inventory (CRI) and allowing patients and providers to search for relevant resources. It also utilizes a referral hub to receive, process and route referrals and progress reports.

What Organizations Should Invest in e-Referrals

In addition to faster referrals, using the EHR improves data quality and increases the likelihood of a successful referral to the service provider. The public health benefits of transforming paper-based referral systems to an e-Referral include developing a sustainable, cost-effective system that has possibilities of reaching higher numbers of patients and ultimately, improving patient outcomes.

How e-Referral Work is Funded at Denver Public Health

Denver Public Health received its first grant to work on e-Referrals from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2012 through Colorado’s voter-approved Amendment 35 tobacco excise tax. The funded project aimed to help healthcare providers across Colorado implement electronic referral solutions (e-Referrals) to connect patients with tobacco cessation services at the Colorado Quitline. In only four years, Denver Public Health helped the Colorado Quitline build a service to receive e-Referrals, and several healthcare providers have successfully implemented tobacco e-Referral processes for their patients.

Building upon that success, Denver Public Health was awarded a similar grant by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2016 to expand e-Referral work to connect at risk patients with community-based National Diabetes Prevention Programs. The project, CRISPeR, is currently supported through a five year CDC 1817 award to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Tobacco e-Referral Resources from Denver Public Health

Pre-Diabetes e-Referral Resources from Denver Public Health

Interested in Implementing a Tobacco e-Referral at Your Organization?

Denver Public Health has worked with several healthcare organizations in the Denver Metro area to implement e-Referrals. If you are interested in implementing an e-Referral for community health services, contact Santos Diaz.

Interested in Implementing a Pre-Diabetes e-Referral at Your Organization?

Denver Public Health is currently developing a pre-diabetes e-Referral system for healthcare providers to use. If you are interested in learning more, contact Melissa McClung.