Urgent, Unscheduled Self-Referrals by Ambulatory Patients
S. Vinker, S. Nakar, Z. Alon, H. Abu-Amar, G. Sadovsky, E. Hyam
General Sick Fund, Central District and Dept. of Family Medicine, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Direct self-referral to a consultant is common in the Israeli health system. Yet patients' reasons for their urgent, unscheduled self-referrals for ambulatory consultations (UUSR) have not been explored. We studied such consultations in an urban multi-disciplinary consultation center serving a population of approximately 100,000. Over a 3-month period such consultations in ophthalmology, ear-nose-and-throat and dermatology clinics were treated by a duty family physician (FP). The FP was instructed to focus on the urgent complaint and either to give definitive treatment and schedule a consultation when needed, or refer the patient for immediate specialist consultation. Patients treated by the FP were asked to fill an anonymous questionnaire, which 347/645 (55.4%) did.
Among the reasons for UUSR were that the patient thought that his/her complaints should be treated by a consultant (29%), the patient was sent by the FP without a consultation note (13.9%), the FP was not available (10.4%), or the patient wished to see the consultant for a second opinion (8.2%). In only 7.8% had the patient noted that his complaint needed urgent consultation. Duration of complaints, but not prior efforts to schedule a consultation, were associated with different reasons for asking for an UUSR. For various reasons patients preferred an UUSR rather than seeing their own FP. Patients' opinions regarding self-referrals are important in planning primary care facilities and FP training.