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FAMILY MEDICINE PRACTICE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 145-148

Structured printed referral letter (form letter); saves time and improves communication


Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Ragama, Sri Lanka

Correspondence Address:
R.P.J.C. Ramanayake
Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Ragama
Sri Lanka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2249-4863.117404

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Referral of patients to hospitals, specialists and other institutions is an essential part of primary health care. Patients are referred to specialists when investigation or therapeutic options are exhausted in primary care or when opinion or advice is needed from them. Referral has considerable implications for patients, health care system and health care costs. Good communication between primary and secondary care is essential for the smooth running of any health care system. Referral and reply letters are the sole means of communication between doctors most of the time and breakdown in communication could lead to poor continuity of care, delayed diagnoses, polypharmacy, increased litigation risk and unnecessary testing. A referral letter also helps to avoid patient dissatisfaction and loss of confidence in family physician. Studies of referral letters have reported that specialists are dissatisfied with their quality and content. Inclusion of letter writing skills in the medical curriculum, peer assessment and feedback have shown to improve the quality of referral letters. . Form letters have shown to enhance information content and communication in referral process. In Sri Lanka referral letters are usually hand written and frequent complaints are that these letters do not contain adequate information and retrieval of information is a problem due to poor legibility and clarity. Sometimes Primary care doctors refer patients to hospitals and specialists with only verbal instructions. To address these short comings this form letter was introduced. Based on the guidelines and systematic review of published articles, items of information to be included were decided. Printed forms of the letter are kept in the practice and the doctor has to just fill up relevant information under each heading. The objectives of introducing this structured referral letter was to improve the quality and standard of referral letters and save time for both general practitioners and specialists.


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