According to a report in the Annals of Family Medicine, 45 percent of physicians receive new patients through doctor referrals yearly. And although independent physicians aim for high patient retention, referrals can sometimes be ideal — or even necessary — to smoothen the overall patient experience and reduce care gaps.
How do doctors know when it is best to refer a patient? Read on for a few considerations for medical referrals.
There will be times when, no matter how hard you try, you just won’t be able to determine how to best help a patient. Don’t stress, because there are other doctors out there that can help. This isn’t defeat, it is a mutual goal to diagnose a patient in the most efficient way. Consider referring your patient if you find yourself in this situation.
They say two heads can be better than one. Sometimes, you might need to refer to a specialist. Specialists often can have a different opinion that might benefit the patient.
According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, about one in 10 visits to a primary care doctor resulted in a referral to a specialist in 2009. If you see that your patient has risk factors, or if you simply want a second opinion, a referral to a specialist might be the way to go. Specialist referrals don’t necessarily hurt your patient retention, because you are still involved in the patient’s journey.
Every doctor comes across a patient they don’t see eye-to-eye with every once in a while. You might not gel with certain patients for a variety reasons, but you should always first try to work through any problems in order to deliver care to the best of your ability.
If nothing is working — if you just can’t get through to them — it might be time to refer the patient to a colleague you think they will better vibe with. Refers like this could be mutually appreciated.
According to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 27.9 percent of doctors end up referring their patients because of patient access concerns. Patient access includes convenience of location, availability of appointments, and the language the doctor speaks.
If you find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to communicate with your patient, or you are overbooked and can’t see them in a timely manner, doctor referrals could be the solution.
After deciding to refer, use a protocol or a referral management software program that is followed by all practitioners in the office. Here are some helpful guidelines for referrals:
Although it might be a tough goodbye to offer a referral, sometimes it’s the best solution. Patient satisfaction could increase, and your practice might see more referrals from current patients who are more satisfied with their overall care.
For more tips on how to improve the patient experience, check out our three part series on the topic. Start with “Part 1: pre-visit.”
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