Generalist-subspecialist communication for children with chronic conditions: a regional physician survey

Pediatrics. 2003 Dec;112(6 Pt 1):1314-20. doi: 10.1542/peds.112.6.1314.


Objective: To identify target areas for interventions to improve communication between pediatric generalists (PCPs) and pediatric subspecialists (SPs) in the outpatient care of children with chronic conditions.

Methods: We constructed a 4-page mailed questionnaire probing communication practices, opinions about the role of communication in care, and perceived barriers and facilitators to PCP-SP communication in the care of children with chronic conditions. In the spring of 2001, we surveyed all 495 New England SPs who were members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and/or SP societies and a random sample of 495 generalist AAP members in New England. Eligible were those actively providing outpatient care. Most items were rated on a 5-point scale.

Results: Of those eligible, 48% (412/860) completed the questionnaire. Although 98% of respondents agreed that communication was important for good care, reported practices reflected large gaps in this area. Frequent receipt (>60% of the time) of communication about an initial referral was reported by only 28% of SPs. Barriers reported as most important involved inefficiencies in telephone contact, transcription delay, and failure to keep all providers informed when >1 specialist is involved. Important facilitators included letters or phone calls at or before the time of consultation, and clear and specific referral questions from PCPs. PCPs saw communication as more of a problem than did SPs (40% vs 28%), and reported several barriers as more important. Although 86% of respondents had access to e-mail in their practices, <20% used it often.

Conclusions: PCPs and SPs sharing care for children with chronic conditions are troubled by their frequent failure or inability to contact their colleagues by phone and letter. PCPs communicate less frequently than SPs yet perceive more problems with communication. Interventions to promote efficient contact between providers at or before the time of subspecialty visits can lead to improved coordination of care, which in turn may better meet the needs of families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Communication*
  • Data Collection
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Medicine*
  • New England
  • Pediatrics*
  • Specialization*