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Communication Failure in Primary Care Failure of Consultants to Provide Follow-up Information

Richard O. Cummins, MD, MPH; Robert W. Smith, MD; Thomas S. Inui, ScM, MD
JAMA. 1980;243(16):1650-1652. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300420034022.
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In a two-physician general practice within 80 km of two university medical centers, there were 4,367 patient visits in six months, from which 233 referrals (5.3%) were made to consultants. All referred patients were accompanied by referral material and a request for follow-up information. The overall rate of receiving follow-up information was 62%. Private specialists provided substantially more follow-up information (78%) than either university-affiliated emergency rooms (48%) or university-affiliated specialty clinics (59%). Patients requiring continuing medical supervision from the referring physician also fared poorly: follow-up information for them was provided only 54% of the time. The timeliness and method of providing follow-up information were examined and believed to be satisfactory when follow-up information was returned.

(JAMA 243:1650-1652, 1980)


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