We prospectively studied the communication between 27 referring practitioners and their consultants for 464 consecutive patient referrals from a general internal medicine group practice at a university medical center. The rates of referral among practitioners varied from 0 to 28.1 per 100 patients visits. Though referring physicians provided patient background information in 98% of the cases, they made explicit the purpose of the referral in only 76% of the cases. They contacted consultants directly in only 9% of the cases. In return, consultants communicated their findings to referring practitioners in only 55% of the consultations. Referring physicians who personally contacted consultants or who supplied them with more clinical information were more likely to learn the results of the consultation. While communication between the referring physicians and consultants in this setting is limited, it may be improved if referring physicians supply more clinical information to consultants and contact them directly.