It is perceived that GPs dislike referral management, in reality over 75% of GPs view it as beneficial.
GPs and referral management, a phrase that doesn’t always prompt positive connotations, but evidence suggests that majority of GPs view it as beneficial.
GPs don’t like referral management. At least that’s what I’m often led to believe. There is a perception of referral management that it adds an extra layer of scrutiny and increases workload for GPs. In reality, a well-executed referral management service holds numerous benefits to all stakeholders, including GPs.
As with all healthcare in England, GPs are struggling with increased demand, and the time they have to spend with each patient is critical. In a ten minute consultation a GP is expected to diagnose a patient and decide on the best course of action. A BMA survey published last year revealed that over 90% of GPs view the consultation time as inadequate. As such it is crucial that GPs can use this time to make valuable clinical decisions, not deliberating administrative tasks. Using a referral management service can dramatically decrease the administrative requirements of the GP, not least because the question of pathway choice is able to be deferred.
Introducing a new service or pathway often requires a change in behaviour from referrers, and this can be problematic for two reasons. Firstly, it can be difficult to disseminate the message, and ensure that GPs understand the new process. Secondly, when GPs are expected to refer in a different way for each specialty the process becomes overly complex. Referral management services have the unique ability to reduce variation and improve pathway control, without relying on GPs to change the way they refer. By moving this responsibility away from the GP and towards the referral management service we also shift accountability for decision making. This can be particularly beneficial in cases where a patient requests a referral for a non-commissioned treatment, as it becomes the responsibility of the referral management service to enforce commissioning policy.
Finally, GPs love the data produced. No, really. Referral management services produce excellent data, making it possible for GPs to compare their own referral patterns against that of their colleagues. From an individual perspective, the ability to understand how you are referring differently from colleagues and other local GPs is incredibly useful. Investigating these differences ultimately helps to achieve better patient outcomes, and this is the true benefit of referral management.
Evidence suggests that once a referral management centre has bedded in over 75% of GPs view referral management as beneficial.