Improving the Primary Care/Specialist Referral Process

Meagan A. Thompson and Craig R. Mahoney, MD

Both the ease and the speed of the specialist referral process are major concerns for patients and their primary care providers. Factors that slow the process decrease the efficiency of care delivery and make future referrals less likely. Any medical specialty office should strive to coordinate referrals seamlessly, providing optimal and timely care to the patient. To facilitate this, the referral process needs to be as straightforward as possible, allowing the primary care physician and patients quick and easy access to the key people within the receiving facility.

Our experience
The Iowa Orthopaedic Center (Iowa Ortho) in Des Moines periodically reviews all processes, looking at all facets of the business of orthopaedics. During one of those reviews, it was noted that a small but vocal group of referring offices were concerned about the referral process. Their concerns focused on the effect both on the patient and on the clinic that made the referral. Given that feedback, we quickly realized that we could fine-tune how referrals are made to create a more efficient process for all parties involved, including our own staff.

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