Specialist booking protocol

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 53, No. 9, November 2011, Pages 455-456 Letters

This letter is not a criticism of the wait time for specialist appointments; rath­er, it is a criticism of specialist booking protocol. I believe that the routine used by (I am told) an increasing number of specialists antagonizes patients unnecessarily. 

On 27 February, my GP referred me to a specialist. When I had not heard from his office after 3 weeks, I phoned to make sure that the referral had reached his office. I was told that they had my referral, and that they would not be contacting me until nearer the appointment time, which, since it was not urgent, would be in about 4 to 6 months. As it is a chronic problem, I decided against playing the “doc­tor card.” It is now almost 7 months, and I have had no contact initiated by his office at all.

As a patient, I am appalled by this complete lack of contact from the specialist office. It has made me angry enough to write this letter, and I will not be in a particularly respectful or cooperative mood when I eventually do meet him. 

Since I believe that the relationship between physician and patient is an important part of the therapeutic process, I am sad about this. The intention of this letter is to try to persuade specialists to review their approach to their patients, to optimize the relationship. I would suggest an initial contact as soon as the referral is received, with an indication of when to expect the next contact and the length of the waiting list. If for some reason the wait is going to be appreciably extended, the patient should be contacted again. 

Too much contact between the office and the patient is unlikely.
—Ben R. Wilkinson, MD

Ben R. Wilkinson, MB, FRCSC. Specialist booking protocol. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 9, November, 2011, Page(s) 455-456 - Letters.

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Paul Dubord says: reply

We too as specialists agree with your opinion. Here is a copy of a letter that I have sent to St. Pauls Hospital last week in response to their request that we start faxing for testing and consults for our patients. Our office makes it a strict policy to book appointments by phone with the referring Doctors office.

In response to the email regarding the new process for faxing all referral request and test requisitions.

We shall comply with the request, but in the same breath I would like to put forth our concern with this new process. Our experience with this method has not been positive. Person to person contact when involving patients is always in the best interest of the patient. Faxing things off and hoping that it gets received and dealt with leaves the patient at risk for time delays and mistakes. Our job as representatives of our Doctors is to ensure the best possible care for each and every patient. Any delay or inefficiency in this process is not beneficial to patient care. These types of deficiencies flow backwards and eventually lead to the reputation of the doctor and anyone in between.


Tracy York, Office Manager for Dr. Paul Dubord

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