Advocating for digital health solutions: eReferrals launches to early adopter clinics

June 19, 2024

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) has launched the use of OceanMD eReferrals, an integrated digital solution designed to replace fax and related time-consuming manual tasks, in 20 early adopter clinics to help facilitate community-to-community connection between specialists and family doctors, and support referrals in a way that reduces administrative burdens and promotes transparency to patients.

Amplifying the physician voice

In collaboration with PHSA, Doctors of BC helped ensure that physicians’ voices were amplified and included in the selection, design, and development of the eReferral system to ensure it reflects doctors’ needs and doesn’t increase their workloads. This meant that for the first time, physicians were instrumental throughout the entire process, from creation to implementation in a provincial system.

Through a number of member engagements, Doctors of BC advocated for both specialist and family doctor involvement to ensure all physicians had the opportunity to provide input into the design of the eReferral forms, test the system pre-launch, and validate clinical workflows. This engagement is the foundation for helping ensure that speciality-specific needs were met when it came to developing the eReferral system and will allow both specialists and family doctors to focus more on patient care and less on referral forms.

The Digital Referrals and Orders Program

eReferrals is one component of PHSA’s larger Digital Referrals and Orders program (DRO) – a provincial platform that enables care teams to electronically exchange, track, and manage referrals, medical order requisitions, and requests for advice more effectively and efficiently. With support from Doctors of BC, and funding from the Shared Care Committee, the 20 early adopter clinics will benefit from a dedicated Delivery Team of support services experts, trainers, and skilled change leaders during and post-implementation to guide them through this transition.

The physician journey

Doctors of BC’s physician leads in the eReferral project say this is a priority area for several reasons but mainly because of the continued reliance on increasingly outdated and cumbersome tools like the fax machine. Dr Birinder Narang, Co-Chair of the DRO Steering Committee, explains that “One of the largest burdens in practice today is the use of manual processes – for both family medicine and consulting specialties. A heavy reliance on fax machines is prone to inefficiency and errors. It also leads to mounting frustrating for patients who are often left out of the loop.” Dr Tommy Gerschman, a consulting specialist leader on the DRO Steering Committee and early adopter adds that, “By taking a digital health approach, not only can we hopefully improve the efficiency and physician experience of the process of making and receiving a referral, but also ensure that fewer gaps occur.”

Both doctors note the particular importance of having a community perspective when it comes to developing a tool such as eReferrals. Says Dr Gershman, “We need to be able to hear from both specialists and family doctors. Our interaction with these tools occurs daily – they are integral to the work we do – so it is vital that a clinician’s workflows and experiences are front and centre in the decision making and development process. Especially given that experience has shown, when this piece is missing, digital tools can actually contribute to burnout and inefficiency rather than alleviate them.”

Click here for a full Q&A with Drs Birinder Narang and Tommy Gerschman.

Next steps

In addition to the 20 early adopter clinics, Doctors of BC is actively working with PHSA to identify specialty areas and regions to focus on as eReferrals, and the larger DRO Program, expand. This will include ongoing engagement with different specialty working groups to ensure that the eReferral forms reflect their needs. Dr Narang adds that, “While we are starting with eReferrals, we will also be implementing eConsults, allowing for clinical advice to be shared efficiently and securely between providers; eOrders, allowing for digitization of ordering for laboratory tests and medical imaging; and eSubmissions for provincial forms such as WorkSafeBC and ICBC.”

Get involved

Physicians who wish to participate in the eReferral program, and are already an OceanMD user, can to sign up for the provincial program and transition over their licence, eliminating the monthly licensing fee. You can also learn more about the DRO program by visiting PHSA’s Digital Referrals & Orders webpage.

To find out all the ways in which Doctors of BC is advocating for digital health solutions, visit the Advocacy and Initiatives webpage in the Digital Health section of our website. You can also learn more about past and upcoming engagement opportunities and get involved in this work directly by completing this form or connecting with the Digital Health Team at should you have any questions.