Three different, well established systems for e-referral were examined. They ranged from a system in a single country handling a large number of cases (60,000 per year) to a global system covering many countries which handled fewer cases (150 per year). Nonetheless, there appeared to be a number of common features. Whether the purpose is e-transfer or e-consultation, the underlying model of the e-referral process is: the referrer initiates an e-request; the organization managing the process receives it, the organization allocates it for reply; the responder replies to the initiator. Various things can go wrong and the organization managing the e-referral process needs to be able to track requests through the system; this requires various performance metrics. E-referral can be conducted using email, or as messages passed either directly between computer systems or via a Web-link to a server. The experience of the three systems studied shows that significant changes in work practice are needed to launch an e-referral service successfully. The use of e-referral between primary and secondary care improves access to services and can be shown to be cost-effective.