Background In an effort to manage increasing demand for neurology outpatient services in St. Vincent's University Hospital Dublin a web-based referral system (Neurolink) for general practitioners (GP) was introduced. The aims were to improve patient care by reducing unnecessary outpatient visits, avoid emergency department presentations, shorten waiting times and alleviate the administrative burden on healthcare staff.
Methods Electronic referrals between December 2006 and January 2011 were analysed with regard to response times, patient outcomes and GP satisfaction.
Results All referrals were assessed by a consultant neurologist. The average time from referral to reply was 19 h. The most common reasons for referral were paraesthesiae, pain and headache. When asked to state their suspected diagnosis GPs selected: unknown (25%), epilepsy (12%), migraine (12%), and multiple sclerosis (8%). 19% (127/662) of patients referred were managed by providing GPs with specialist advice on investigations and treatment without requiring an outpatient appointment. GP satisfaction with the service was >90%.
Discussion The results highlight that with a timely electronic support service for GPs a fifth of patients referred can be appropriately managed in the community. As a result access to specialist neurology services for those most in need is improved.
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