Trends in Physician Referrals – Healthcare referral problem

Referrals are on the rise

Physician referrals play a large role in healthcare in the United states, but in the past the healthcare industry has had no way to track referrals in a standardized way.

A study by Michael L. Barnett studied 845,243 patient visits from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care from 1999 to 2009 and found the probability that an ambulatory visit to a physician resulted in a referral to another physician increased from 4.8% to 9.3% (P <001), a 94% increase. The absolute number of visits resulting in a physician referral increased 159% nationally during this time, from 41 million to 105 million.

This trend was consistent across all subgroups examined, except for slower growth among physicians with ownership stakes in their practice (P=.02) or those with the majority of income from managed care contracts (P=.007). Changes in referral rates varied according to the principal symptoms accounting for patients’ visits, with significant increases noted for visits to primary care physicians from patients with cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, orthopedic, dermatologic, and ear/nose/throat symptoms.

More details can be found at at University of Colorado – Denver HSL, on January 26, 2012

So what does this all mean?

The patient referral system today is broken, rampant with issues and roadblocks that can definitely be corrected, but before that happens the problems need to be identified clearly. The main issue with physician referrals (see shocking statistics)  is that often they don’t even realize the mistakes they are making.

Read more on a recent article that we wrote titled “5 Physician Referral Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

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