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What is the SCA Program?

The System Coordinated Access (SCA) Program supports the development and adoption of coordinated access and electronic referral (eReferral) in Ontario.

Working closely with system and community partners, the SCA Program is developing an integrated end-to-end electronic referral strategy focused on connecting providers to available specialists and programs while improving communication between providers and patients.

The SCA Program operates out of the eHealth Centre of Excellence (eCE), and is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) to support the implementation of the Ocean eReferral Network. The overall focus of this work is intended to simplify the referral process by allowing primary care providers and their staff to search, find and send referrals electronically – ultimately saving time and improving patient communication.

What are the benefits of eReferral?

  • Integration with Telus Practice Solutions, Oscar and Accuro Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) so you can send referrals quickly and directly.
  • Standardized referral forms are updated automatically with pre-populated information from your EMR.
  • Referral status real-time updates within most EMRs.
  • Reduces administrative tasks, such as the need to make follow-up calls.
  • A map-based directory of available services and programs, complete with wait times where available.
  • Patients can choose to receive email notifications with referral status and appointment details.
  • Patients can confirm appointments directly from the email notification.
  • Access to the eReferral solution, training and on-site support provided at no cost to you.

Improving Patient Communication

The MOHLTC supports digital health initiatives including the use of email communication for patients. As outlined in the April 2018 Family Health Team Agreement, it states that “the recipient must make reasonable efforts within the budget included in Schedule “B” to ensure that the option of email communication is available to patients.”

Collecting patients’ email addresses will also ensure that patients are able to realize all the intended benefits of eReferral. If a patient’s email address is included in his or her chart, the patient will receive email notifications, which includes detailed information related to the referral. This means fewer incoming and outgoing phone calls to your office related to referrals, ultimately reducing the workload for your administrative staff. It’s important to note that these emails are push notifications only therefore patients will not be able to respond to the sender.

Interested in signing up for the Ocean eReferral Network or looking for additional information?
We would love to hear from you!

Your local SCA deployment team is here to help. If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact Alex Russell, Engagement and Adoption Coordinator at

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How the Ocean eReferral solution can help

Giving patients the option of communicating by email is not something all primary care providers are currently doing. By implementing eReferral, patients who choose to provide you with their email address can begin receiving notifications related to their eReferrals through the Ocean system. This means that physicians who aren’t yet offering email correspondence to their patients can align with ministry expectations without making major changes to their existing practices. In addition, the email correspondence between physicians related to the eReferral will also be done through the Ocean solution.

How Ocean protects privacy 

Patients receive automated referral notifications via the Ocean eReferral Network. In order to protect personal health information (PHI) in emails between participating clinicians and patients, Ocean takes a few precautions, including:

  • The email used is either explicitly entered in the ‘Send Referral’ dialog box or within the EMR file.
  • Access referral information and PHI is not available within the email beyond its basic content, such as the patient's first name, referral health service offering, appointment date, time, and location.
  • The email only provides a link for the patient to confirm – not a link to the actual referral with PHI.

Acquiring patient consent

A patient’s consent to receive email communication is given at the point at which they provide the office with their email address. If needed, your local SCA deployment team can provide you with a patient consent template and other relevant tools.

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