To most patients, being referred from one doctor to another is a simple and routine procedure among medical professionals – the patient assumes they’re being referred to a physician who specializes in their particular health need. What they may not realize is that the process actually involves a protocol that must adhere to certain professional guidelines in order to ensure prompt and effective patient healthcare.
Let’s talk about the proper steps that must be followed in a physician-to-physician referral:
How to Refer a Patient to Another Physician
Before referring a patient to see another doctor, the referring doctor should make sure their patient is aware of the purpose and necessity of the referral – and that the patient consents to the referral. The referring physician should also provide the patient with the opportunity to ask any questions about the referral.
The referring physician can then provide a written request for consultation that includes the following information:
- The patient’s name and contact information. If the patient has consented to email communication, the referring doctor should inform the consulting physician of that consent.
- The date and specific purpose of the referral.
- Any relevant clinical information, such as the patient’s current medications, allergies, medical history, results of a physical examination, and social information – such as the patient’s gender identity or any language barriers.
- An indication of the level of urgency of the referral.
- Copies or summaries of laboratory tests, imaging tests, and other reports related to the patient’s condition.
- Expectations concerning the consultation outcome, such as a medical opinion, treatment, or transfer of care.
The quality of the information provided in a physician referral request is important. If it is insufficient, unclear, or misleading, it can lead to confusion or unnecessary delays at the expense of the patient’s health.
Likewise, it is inappropriate for a referring physician to send the same referral form or letter to multiple specialists concurrently, as this can cause inefficiencies in the process and frustration for both the patient and medical colleagues. The referring physician should keep notes on what the thought process is regarding which specialist the patient should see and when – in order. Do not assume that you will remember later.
Guidelines for the Consulting Specialist
It is then the responsibility of the physician specialist to promptly notify the referring doctor that the referral has been received. If the referral is accepted, the consulting physician should confirm the appointment date and time to both the referring physician and the patient.
In addition, the consulting physician should advise the patient of any specific requirements prior to the appointment, such as any necessary preparations, what to expect about office procedures, and your policy regarding canceling or confirming appointments in advance.
If the referral is not accepted, it is incumbent on the consulting physician to provide an explanation of the reason, as well as suggested alternatives, if appropriate.
What the Specialist Must Do During and After the Appointment
Once the consulting physician sees the patient, a timely written report (and/or verbal notification of the results) should be provided to the referring physician. The report should include the following details:
- Patient’s name
- Patient’s primary care doctor (if known)
- Date of the consultation
- Purpose of the referral
- Physical investigations and findings
- Diagnostic conclusions
- Recommendations or next steps that were provided to the patient
In addition, the consulting specialist is responsible for informing the referring doctor of any subsequent interactions with the patient and whether and when another appointment is necessary. Also, both the patient and the referring physician need to be notified when (or if) patient care is being transferred back to the referring doctor or to another healthcare provider.
Expert Help with Doctor Referrals
As you can see, there’s more to doctor referrals than meets the eye. It takes special skills to both obtain and process physician referrals and to maintain professional relationships with your practice’s referral sources.
Here at Doctor Referral Institute, we not only provide consulting services to specialty healthcare providers throughout the country, but we also offer referral development. Our highly experienced team of medical professionals has the skills and resources to obtain new, case-specific patients for you, so you can concentrate on providing quality healthcare service and growing your practice.
To find out how your firm can utilize our consulting and marketing services for your practice’s individual needs, contact Doctor Referral Institute today by calling us at (888) 703-9167 or by filling out our consultation request form online. We look forward to helping your practice reach higher levels of success.Physician Referrals