A referral is a common and necessary medical practice. In some situations, a physician is not capable of providing a patient the care they need, and the best choice is to refer them to a fellow physician that might be better equipped to help. Referrals are the ideal route for physicians to ensure a smooth patient experience.
There are a variety of reasons a physician might choose to refer a patient to a fellow provider. Here are a few:
- The physician cannot reach a diagnosis
For all the expertise and training physicians receive, there will be times where they cannot figure out how best to help a patient or determine the cause of their complaint. This is where other physicians can help. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all that is needed for patients to get the answers they are looking for.
As a primary care physician, you should enhance communications with the provider you have referred a patient to, in order to follow up once a diagnosis has been made. There is a very high likelihood that you will remain an important part of the patient’s care plan, and maintaining open dialogue with both the patient and the other physician is important for positive outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction.
- A specialist is required
A medical specialist is a physician with additional expertise and experience in the branch of medicine that they specialized in. Some specialists really hone in on a certain discipline, specializing in treating very specific conditions. When physicians make a diagnosis that requires specialized care that they are not equipped to provide, they should refer said patient to a specialist.
Referrals to a specialist can also be necessary for patients with certain risk factors that the physician is not equipped to handle, or for an expert second opinion.
- The patient wants a second opinion
Patients themselves will often require a second opinion. When receiving a grim diagnosis or being faced with a difficult medical decision, patients often wish to fully explore and understand all of their options. For difficult decisions, they may also need more time or guidance in making the right choice. A referral can reassure them that you have provided them the right information, and may allow them to explore other options that you cannot offer.
- For improving patient access
Patient access to healthcare is an important piece of the modern healthcare puzzle. Access to refers to the location of the provider, languages spoken by the physician, and the time appointments are available, all of which directly impact the quality of care a patient receives.
A referral can be the best choice in situations where you are finding it difficult to communicate with the patient due to a language barrier, or are simply too busy with other appointments to see them.