Electronic hospital referrals by Cork GPs

Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork is the first hospital in Ireland with an electronic system for GPs’ referring patients for general outpatient appointments.


In January, a number of Cork GPs began to refer electronically into cardiology, respiratory and vascular departments at the MUH. Over 250 electronic referrals had been received by the end of July.

The system has now been opened up to all specialties at MUH and is available to all GPs in the catchment area.

The project was recently extended to Mallow General Hospital. It is expected that the remaining five pilot hospitals (Cork University Hospital, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Bantry General Hospital, Kerry General Hospital and Tallaght Hospital) will have electronic referral by mid-2014.

The purpose of the pilot project is to develop an electronic referral pathway for public outpatient hospital appointments between GPs and seven pilot hospitals.

The Healthlink system provides a web-based messaging service, which allows the secure transmission of the referral from a GP to the hospital and the GP receives an acknowledgement.

Considerable work is underway at the pilot hospitals to centralise and standardise the management of all out-patient referrals.

This ensures that each electronic referral results in an electronic response message to the GP within seven days detailing if the patient has been listed for an urgent or routine appointment, the appointment date if available, or details of any waiting list the patient has been put on.

Charleville-based GP, Dr Tom Molloy, says the system is “straightforward and self explanatory”.

“There are numerous benefits including: ease of use. The referral is rapid and made during the consultation, the GPs get an acknowledgment that the referral has been received and is being handled and there is a permanent record of the referral.”