Physicians Focus on Various Factors When Referring to Colleagues

Primary care physicians and specialists have different reasons for referring patients to certain colleagues, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Michael L. Barnett, MD, from Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues investigated why PCPs and specialists choose specific colleagues for referrals and how these reasons differ according to specialty. According to their findings, PCPs and medical and surgical specialists initiated referrals to 66, 49 and 52 percent of their professional-network colleagues, respectively.

Medical specialists were less likely than PCPs to report ease of communication with colleagues. Both medical and surgical specialists were less likely to report shared electronic medical record systems as a reason for their referral.

The study concluded that specialists frequently initiate referrals, but not so much PCPs. When choosing which physicians to refer to, PCPs are more focused on between-physician communication and patient access.

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