According to a recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, primary care physicians have doubled the number of patients they refer to specialists from 1999 to 2009. What could account for this increase in referrals? What does this mean for patients?
- Limited Time During Physician Visits
This is complicated by the pressure on many physician visits, in which patients have only 15 minutes to discuss their medical conditions and the physicians have less time to examine the history of care and probe for probable sources.
- Technological Sophistication and Growth
Moreover, as medicine becomes more complex and sophisticated, primary care doctors don’t trust themselves to understand the latest and greatest offerings. They don’t have the time to keep up with the minutiae. It’s easier for a doctor to avoid misdiagnosis and send the patient for follow-up care with a medical specialist or subspecialists who has more knowledge of the latest treatment options.
- Fear of Litigation
The treat of malpractice lawsuits hangs heavy over many physicians. While many doctors order unnecessary tests as a precaution to avoid potential liability, physicians also refer to specialists in order to help cover their bases and avoid being sued.
Cost is something that all patients should be thinking about in the current healthcare market. Appointments with specialists, and the advanced diagnostic tests they order, tend to be more expensive than run-of-the-mill primary care visits. But most primary care physicians, especially those working as salaried employees at hospitals, no longer have a financial reason to refer their patients to specialists.
Need help finding a doctor? Call the Bon Secours physician referral line at 757.889.2273.
Source: Kevin, MD “Why more primary care doctors are referring patients to specialists”