METHODS: A survey instrument to assess the attitudes and patterns of referral and consultation between MD primary care physicians (MDPCPs) and DCs was developed and sent to all DCs in the state of Iowa. Multivariable logistic regression models were built to assess the impact of provider characteristics on intra-professional and inter-professional referral patterns. RESULTS: Of all DCs contacted, 452 (40.7%) participated in the study. Close to 8% of DCs reported that they never send a case report when referring a patient to another DC, while 13% never send a case report to a MDPCP. About 10% of DCs never send follow-up clinical information to referring doctors. DCs that perform differential diagnosis were significantly more likely to have engaged in inter-professional referral than DCs who did not perform differential diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: The tendency toward informality, in both referral practices and sharing of clinical documentation for referred patients between MDPCPs and DCs, is an explicit marker of concerns that need to be addressed in order to improve coordination and continuity of care for patients shared between these provider types.
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