Referral of Patients to Specialists: Factors Affecting Choice of Specialist by Primary Care Physicians
We wanted to determine the importance of factors in primary care physicians’ choice of specialist when referring patients and to compare importance ratings by physicians’ race and sex.
Using a cross-sectional study design, we surveyed a stratified national sample of 1,252 primary care physicians serving adults to include equal numbers of black women, white women, black men, and white men. We assessed the percentage of physicians rating each of 17 items to be of major importance in choosing a specialist and compared importance ratings by physicians’ race and sex.
The response rate was 59.1%. Medical skill, appointment timeliness, insurance coverage, previous experience with the specialist, quality of specialist communication, specialist efforts to return patient to primary physician for care, and the likelihood of good patient-specialist rapport were of major importance to most respondents. Compared with black physicians, white physicians were more likely to rate previous experience with the specialist (65% vs 55%, P = .05) and board certification (41% vs 29%, P <.05) to be of major importance. White physicians were somewhat less likely than black physicians (17% vs 26%, P = .06) to rate patient convenience to be of major importance. Compared with male physicians, female physicians were more likely to rate the patient’s insurance status to be of major importance (60% vs 44%, P <.01).