Specialty referrals—when a clinician refers a patient to a specialist for evaluation or treatment—are on the rise in the US. Despite the introduction of electronic health records (EHRs), the referral process is often hindered by lack of clarity over roles, communication breakdowns, workloads and variations in requirements among specialists. These difficulties can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, delays in treatment and other lapses in patient safety.
This guide from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement offers recommendations that aim to help standardise how primary care practitioners activate referrals to specialists and then keep track of the information over time. It describes a nine-step, closed-loop process in which all relevant patient information is communicated to the correct person through the appropriate channels, in a timely manner.