State of healthcare in 2012: Are Specialists Receiving Your Referrals?

Referral communication is a big challenge in healthcare

Healthcare communication in 2012According to a recent study in Archives of Internal Medicine, Two-thirds of primary care physicians questioned say they regularly send patient referral information to specialists, however only one-third of specialists report receiving it. The number is staggering and highlights issues with referral communication.  Referring physicians rarely receive feedback from patient referrals.

Failure to communicate creates several problems:

  1. This is not good for patient care
  2. Referring physician never receives feedback if referral was ignored by the patient
  3. Clinics, hospitals and other practices do not receive marketing benefit
  4. 11  disturbing facts about paper referrals and how a vast majority are lost, misplaced or misfiled.

Of the PCPs participating in the study, 69.3% “of PCPs reported “always” or “most of the time” sending notification of a patient’s history and reason for consultation to specialists, but only 34.8% of specialists said they “always” or “most of the time” received such notification. Likewise, 80.6% of specialists said they “always” or “most of the time” send consultation results to the referring PCP, but only 62.2% of PCPs said they received such information.

Physicians also identified that by not receiving timely communication concerning referrals were less likely to be able to provide high quality care. Patient care can be immediately threatened by either the lack of communication or timely information. Physician communication should be collaborative in nature and avoid information silos.

Referrals in addition to enhancing patient care serve as a marketing tool. If only one-third of specialists are receiving your referrals, your practice is losing out on business. It is imperative that your practice has the ability to track patient referrals and ensure they are received and responded to in a timely manner.

What are your thoughts about patient referrals?

1. How are you currently exchanging information with your referral colleagues?
2. What types of challenges are you facing?  Share your ideas here.

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