Primary care and specialty physicians weigh different factors when deciding where to refer patients, according to a recent study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
For the study, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers conducted a Web-based survey of 616 physicians to discover how they decide to refer a patient to another provider.
The findings showed that two-thirds of primary care physicians (PCP) and half of specialists referred patients to other providers within their professional network. Specifically, the study found that PCPs consider criteria such as patient access and physician-to-physician communication when deciding referrals. Meanwhile, specialists tended to base their referral decisions other patients' satisfaction with the new provider.
According to the researchers, previous patient referral research has focused on PCPs as the primary source of referrals. However, they note that the findings suggest that "interventions to influence referral practices [may] need to be tailored by specialty" (Preidt, HealthDay, 9/23).
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