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Specialist referrals are happening more frequently than ever.  The likelihood of being referred to a specialist nearly doubled from 1999 to 2009 with doctors sending their patients to other doctors 9.3 percent of the time in 2009 compared to 4.8 percent in 1999. 

Referrals work best with providers and patients understand the purpose and importance of the referral and the role each person places in the care process. 

Here are seven ways to make referrals and care transitions work better for everyone:

  1. Develop a referral tracking system to internally track and manage referrals and transitions including consultations with specialists, hospitalizations and ER visits, and referrals to community agencies.
  2. Generate periodic reports by physician, including type of specialist referred to, patient name, and diagnosis.
  3. Establish referral guidelines for all physicians.
  4. Notify referring primary care physician of no-shows and cancellations.
  5. Inform primary care physicians when inappropriate referrals are made to prevent future recurrences and unnecessary appointments.
  6. Ensure patients are well prepared for their referral visit and know what to expect afterwards.
  7. Follow-up with referral provider about findings, next steps, and treatment plans.

Need more reasons you need to focus on physician-to-physician communication? It's time to improve care coordination. Find care coordination tips and strategies in our free checklist, Transforming Care Coordination: What to Do Now.

Download care coordination checklist

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