Halley Consulting Group, a firm serving hospital, health system and private practice physician clients nationwide, and athenahealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATHN), a leading provider of cloud-based, electronic health record ( EHR), practice management, and care coordination services to medical groups and health systems, have announced the results of a joint study on national referral patterns from more than 1,000 primary care specialists nationwide.
The inaugural ReferralView SM study examines the following questions: What specialists and services do primary care providers (PCPs) refer to most often? How do referrals vary among different kinds of PCPs, in different regions of the country? How can physicians and health care system executives use referral data to inform their growth strategies, better coordinate care, and meet quality of care standards?
Among the key findings were the following:
- Family practice and internal medicine providers referred at rates of 25 percent and 29 percent, respectively, underscoring the large volume of referrals these primary care practices must manage.
- The top referred-to specialties included gastroenterology, orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, dermatology, and otolaryngology (ENT), with some variation among primary care specialties.
- Regional trends indicated referral rates were highest in the West and Northeast, most likely due to the predominance of rural areas in the Midwest and South, penetration of HMOs in the West and Northeast, and higher median patient age in the West.
“Our findings provide a strategic framework for hospitals’ medical staff planning process—determining the mix of physician specialties and other healthcare professionals required to meet demand and remain operationally viable,” said Marc Halley, president and CEO of Halley Consulting Group. “Additionally, the data provide a gauge to indicate whether or not a specialty physician is the provider of choice among referring PCPs—whether or not specialty physicians are attracting the optimal number of referrals.”