Objective: Understanding the roles and responsibilities of physicians who manage mutual patients is important for assuring good patient care. Among physicians expressing a preference to involve a neurologist in the care of a patient, we evaluated agreement between neurologists and primary care physicians for the extent of specialty involvement in the evaluation and management of the patient, and the factors influencing those preferences.
Design and setting: A self-administered survey containing 3 clinical scenarios was developed with the assistance of a multispecialty advisory board and mailed to a stratified probability sample of physicians.
Participants: Six hundred and eight family physicians, 624 general internists, and 492 neurologists in 9 U.S. states.
Interventions: For each scenario, those respondents who preferred involvement of a specialist were asked about the preferred extent of that involvement: one-time consultation with and without test/medication ordering, consultation and limited follow-up, or taking over ongoing care of the specialty problem as long as it persists.
Main results: Survey response rate was 60%. For all 3 scenarios, neurologists preferred a greater extent of specialty involvement compared to primary care physicians (all P <.05). Other physician and practice characteristic factors, including financial incentives, had lesser or no influence on the extent of specialty involvement preferred.
Conclusions: The disagreement between primary care physicians and specialists regarding the preferred extent of specialist involvement in the care of patients with neurological conditions should raise serious concerns among health care providers, policy makers, and educators about whether mutual patient care is coordinated and appropriate.