NHSO to digitise patient referrals

NHSO to digitise patient referrals

A new service aiming to reduce paperwork in patient transfers under the universal health coverage scheme is being piloted by the National Health Security Office (NHSO) in four select provinces.

The service aims to reduce the paperwork burden faced by patients looking to be referred to a hospital for medical treatment.

Currently, patients are required to visit their respective primary health care units to obtain a referral document before they can go to hospital.

The four provinces taking part in NHSO's move are Nakhon Ratchasima, Chaiyaphum, Buri Ram and Surin, said Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister, on Monday.

Beginning on Nov 1, the pilot programme will be evaluated and improved before it can be expanded to the rest of the kingdom within two years, Mr Anutin said.

Sakchai Kanjanawatana, secretary-general of NHSO, cited Nakhon Ratchasima as a province ready to participate in the project. He said Nakhon Ratchasima's health care network is ready and its health volunteers are actively supporting the implementation of the project.

As a result, most patients and their relatives have been satisfied with the new service, Dr Sakchai said.

Local health care units are also participating in the pilot project. Dr Sakchai said they are currently building and upgrading databases so information can be electronically shared during patient referrals.

NHSO is funding the development of these health care unit databases, he added.

Duangnet Thongsuk, a relative of a patient that was referred to Maharat Nakhon Ratchasima Hospital for osteoarthritis treatment, said it was an inconvenience that patients were required to visit a health care unit and wait for a long time before being given a referral document.

"I'm glad this new programme came," Ms Duangnet said. "No more travelling back and forth [between the unit and referred to hospital]."

"All the patient needs is his ID card." Lalita Kongkham, director of the NHSO's Health Area 9 Office in Nakhon Ratchasima, admitted that the new patient referral system is not complete yet, and effective communication within and between health care units is important for addressing problems that may arise at any given time.

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