Subspecialist referrals in an academic, pediatric setting: rationale, rates, and compliance

Am J Manag Care. 1997 Sep;3(9):1307-11.


Appropriate referrals reduce healthcare costs and enhance patient satisfaction. We evaluated the subspecialty referral pattern of a managed care general pediatric office over a 4-month period. Three-hundred-forty-six referrals (267 meeting inclusion criteria) to 24 subspecialties were generated during 4,219 office visits, with five subspecialties receiving 59% of the referrals. The main objective of each referral was management (100), diagnostic assistance (75), special procedure (63), or a combination (29). Patients kept less than half of the referral appointments, with the highest (80%) and lowest (28%) compliance rates observed in cardiology and ophthalmology, respectively. Appointments made within four weeks of the referral were more likely to be kept than those with greater lag time (P = 0.001). The subspecialists prepared written, post-consultation responses to the referring physician in 73% of cases. Presumptive and post-consultation diagnoses were congruent in 78% of those cases in which both diagnoses were noted. Overall, the managed care format enabled our practice to track referral outcomes. The subspecialists' written responses also allowed for an educational exchange between physicians. Compliance with referral appointments is a substantial problem that needs to be addressed.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / organization & administration*
  • Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Managed Care Programs / organization & administration
  • Medicaid
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization*
  • United States