Patient pressure leads half of primary care physicians to issue unnecessary referrals, survey finds

Half of primary care physicians are susceptible to pressure from patients for name-brand drug prescriptions and specialty referrals, even when they are unnecessary, according to research published in the American Journal of Managed Care.


In a national survey of more than 840 primary care physicians, 52 percent reported making what they classified as unnecessary specialist referrals when patients asked for them, and 39 percent admitted to prescribing brand-name drugs when cheaper generics were available.

"Unnecessary medical practices may cause unneeded emotional and financial stress for patients and their loved ones," Sapna Kaul, assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Center Branch at Galveston and coauthor of the paper, said in a news release. "Both physician and patient-level strategies are required to limit wastage of medical resources. Efforts to reduce unnecessary practices could include educating physicians about the benefits that result from avoidance of over/under use of medical services and implementing incentives to create a system of value seeking patients."

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