Article Text

Anticoagulation service: improving the referral process
  1. Thomas Davies,
  2. Ryan Geleit
  1. St. Peter's Hospital
  1. Correspondence to
    Thomas Davies t.w.davies{at}


Oral anticoaguIants are extremely common, and it is estimated that there are between 500,000 and 1 million people prescribed them in the UK.[1] These drugs are the most frequently named medication in fatal errors and litigation claims [2] and they require the implementation of additional safety controls.[3] Warfarin is the most commonly prescribed anticoagulant and it requires regular international normalised ratio (INR) monitoring and dosage adjustment to achieve the desired therapeutic range.[4] Under-anticoagulation can cause thrombosis and over-anticoagulation can lead to haemorrhage, both of which can be fatal.[5]

At St. Peter's hospital there is an anticoagulation service providing regular international normalised ratio (INR) monitoring for patients on warfarin. However, the current referral system is paper-based and a baseline audit found that only 66% of patients were successfully referred to the service on discharge from hospital. This identifies a significant patient safety issue which could result in life-threatening consequences.

An electronic referral form was developed within a pre-existing computer based ordering system with the aim of improving the referral rate. The electronic referral tool streamlined the referral process, making the form quicker and easier to fill out and removed the need for faxing lengthy paper forms. Key information on the form was made mandatory. After intervention a re-audit revealed that 84% of patients discharged on warfarin were referred to the clinic, which equates to an increase of 18%. The increased referral rate will improve patient safety and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

There should be continued promotion of the importance of referring patients to the anticoagulation clinic. This can be delivered through inductions, teaching sessions, and re-audits. Future goals include an automated referral system triggered on patient discharge.

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