Goodbye to Paper Referrals? Big Changes as E-Referrals Arrive

Lauren Simmonds

October the 2nd, 2020 – If you’ve been in Croatia long enough, you’ll have heard of an uputnica. This little piece of paper is your key to a ‘pregled’ or check up by a specialist, a scan, surgery and more. In true Croatian fashion, they’re not digital and you needed to hold on to this slip of paper like gold – until now. Say hello to e-referrals.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 1st of October, 2020, paper uputnice/referrals are coming out of use and e-referrals should finally be the new normal. Such instructions were given to doctors and they are ready to refer all of their patients electronically from the 2nd of this month, Vecernji list has learned.

However, neither the Ministry of Health nor the Croatian Health Insurance Fund have officially confirmed this piece of news, despite the fact that the competent minister sent instructions attesting to it to all relevant primary care doctors on the 18th of September. Hesitation with the announcement of such excellent news points to the fact that they know that in practice it will not go smoothly, and that computerisation is still a sore point in Croatia, even though it has been being announced for ten years now.

The problem is that not all hospitals in Croatia are networked within CEZIH, the central health information system of Croatia. “On October the 1st, 2020, the printing of a referral on a paper form for newly issued referrals will be abolished and we’ll start working with e-referrals,” reads the letter received by family doctors on September the 18th, 2020 from Health Minister Vili Beros.

The minister’s letter regarding the changes to the Croatian Health System goes on to say that “by abolishing paper referrals, selected doctors will have to make either a direct e-referral or request the target institution to appoint their patients” and that requests for appointments for patients who have been issued an e-referral by sent by e-mail. However, family doctors say they don’t agree with this. Seeking appointments for patients from hospitals is considered an administrative task that disrupts public health and imposes additional administrative obligations on selected physicians, to the detriment of direct contact with the patient.

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