Objective: To estimate the proportion of patient referral and to identify the factors associated with unsuccessful referral in Karachi, Pakistan.
Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, a total of 347 patients referred to different health care facilities by the LHWs were interviewed. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire, on demographic characteristics of patients (age, sex, income etc) and potential factors (seriousness of medical condition, distance of health facility, attitude of health center staff etc) that can affect patient referral outcome.
Results: An overall referral rate of 55% was found in this study. Out of a total of 347 patients interviewed, 265 (76.4%) were successful while 82 (23.6%) were unsuccessful referrals. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that objection to referral (Adjusted OR, 2.96; CI: 1.44-5.52), never referred before (Adjusted OR, 1.25; CI: 1.34-6.90), not visited the referral site before (Adjusted OR, 4.04; CI: 2.50-6.08) and no knowledge of who to meet at the referral site (Adjusted OR, 1.30; CI: 1.01-2.96) were the factors associated with unsuccessful referral. Other factors found significant were duration of the illness of the patient, anyone not known at the referral site and failure of LHW to follow up.
Conclusion: Our study found that a significant proportion of patients seen by the LHWs are referred to different health facilities. Improved management skills of LHWs for simple medical problems would probably reduce the number of referrals. Efforts should also be directed to enhance the communication and counseling skills of LHWs, which may reduce a significant proportion of unsuccessful referrals.