As an old, retired specialist, I am driven nuts by a certain policy among some specialists! I am referring to the policy of making no contact with a patient who has been referred until an appointment can be arranged. As I understand this policy, each referral is filed, and when an appointment time becomes clear, the patient is contacted. This policy assumes that the referral process is infallible. It has been known for referrals to get lost in cyberspace. This means that the patient receives no recognition that a referral has been received. How long should a patient who hears nothing wait to discover that the referral got lost?
I believe that all specialists’ offices should contact the patient as soon as they receive a referral. The patient should be informed of the office policy. They may be told that they should expect a call in N weeks, when they will be given an appointment, if this is how the office works.
—Ben R. Wilkinson, MB, FRCSC
The BC College of Physicians and Surgeons has published a guideline addressing the above concern in detail (www.cpsbc.ca/files/pdf/PSG-Referral-Consultation-Process.pdf). Briefly stated, the College recommends that consulting physicians acknowledge receipt of referrals as soon as possible, at the same time indicating if the referral is being accepted or rejected. The College also expects that the consultant will promptly advise both the patient and referring physician of the date and time of the appointment. —ED
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