While the process of a referral actually becoming a consultation can vary quite a bit, how providers decide to whom to refer their patients to usually doesn’t: they typically refer to the same specialists and groups that they always use, much like how people order the same meal or two when they go to a particular restaurant.
How providers decided to use those specialists in the first place was typically based on fairly subjective criteria, such as their office partners use them, they live down the street or go to church with them, they hear good things from colleagues and patients, etc.
Now to be fair, until very recently, there hasn’t been a more objective way to decide which specialists should see patients, so providers had to base their decisions on available information. Whether it is your go-to general surgeon or how you order your steak, it’s easy to fall into habits.
Fortunately, we increasingly have the ability to make intelligent referrals based on pertinent and more objective data, with an ultimate goal of referring a patient to the specialist who is most likely to deliver timely, high quality and cost-effective care and to offer the patient a good experience along the way.
With access to this type of actionable information, providers may change (or affirm) their habitual referral patterns to ensure that their patients are seeing the best specialists for any given reason.