Electronic ordering of lab tests has been available around the country for some time now, but the uptake from GPs has been relatively low in some regions.
With COVID-19 forcing the country into lockdown, and for many GPs – taking them online, e-ordering lab tests to support virtual consults saw significant uptake in the Nelson Marlborough district.
MedLab South Lab Manager Rebecca Brosnan says to have more GPs move to e-ordering and be able to continue providing their consults, albeit virtually, is one of the silver linings from the level 4 lockdown. “It’s good for GPs and a real win for us at MedLab South where we’ve seen great gains in efficiencies and in accuracy of data as a result of the increase in e-ordering,” says Rebecca.
Rebecca has been working closely with Clinical Information Systems Director Dr Bev Nicolls at Nelson Marlborough Health since April 2019 to get GPs and clinicians in the region to order their tests electronically through the e-ordering platform.
Rebecca says many were geared up to use e-ordering well before lockdown and initial uptake last year was encouraging, but only about 25% were actively using it in place of the traditional order form method. The traditional method of ordering tests requires a lot of manual data entry for lab staff, and in some cases with bulk test orders from clinicians, it presented a real challenge when the patient presented for their test.
GP and Clinical IS Director Dr Bev Nicolls says not only is the new e-ordering process saving significant time for the lab team, it is giving GPs much needed information and control.“When you’re handing a patient their lab test order details on paper, once they leave the room there’s no way to know if they’ve had the test, you can’t easily change the test order, nor can you see where the testing process is at. If they are using e-ordering, then they’ll have that information and that control,” says Dr Nicolls.
Like other e-referral systems, lab e-ordering is interfaced into a variety of practice management systems allowing GPs to request a test easily with relevant information available, get patient test results sooner, improve the patient experience at the testing centre, removal of double handling of information, improved accuracy, and freeing up resources in the lab.
Following level 4 lockdown restrictions, the lab saw an immediate jump to around 50% of the region’s GPs using e-ordering for lab tests, with many more who knew about it now requesting to access the platform soon after. With the support of MedLab South, GPs were provided with remote installs of the platform and online video training to learn how to use e-ordering. This brought the use of e-ordering from 25% to well over 80% in a matter of weeks. MedLab South are now rapidly trying to get all GPs and hospital clinicians to be using e-ordering to further build on the gains seen during the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown period.
Southern Community Lab Group CEO, Dr Peter Gootjes says much of the success of e-orders in the region can be attributed to the leadership of the clinical teams and lab staff. “The clinical leads have been highly engaged with the lab which allows us to continue innovating in the way we work together and the way we deliver services. That’s vital when we face a health crisis like COVID-19,” says Dr Gootjes.
MedLab South hopes to see e-ordering continue to have high-levels of use when GPs return to more in-person consults, as well as continue to see further uptake across general practice and hospital outpatients and the hospitals overall.