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PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 319-322

Referral letter with an attached structured reply form: Is it a solution for not getting replies


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

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


DOI: 10.4103/2249-4863.123777

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Background: Communication between primary care doctors and specialists/hospital doctors is vital for smooth functioning of a health care system. In many instances referral and reply letters are the sole means of communication between general practitioners and hospital doctors/specialists. Despite the obvious benefits to patient care, answers to referral letters are the exception worldwide. In Sri Lanka hand written conventional letters are used to refer patients and replies are scarce. Materials and Methods: This interventional study was designed to assess if attaching a structured reply form with the referral letter would increase the rate of replies/back-referrals. It was conducted at the Family Medicine Clinic of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya. A structured referral letter (form) was designed based on guide lines and literature and it was used for referral of patients for a period of six months. Similarly a structured reply form was also designed and both the referral letter and the reply letter were printed on A4 papers side by side and these were used for the next six months for referrals. Both letters had headings and space underneath to write details pertaining to the patient. A register was maintained to document the number of referrals and replies received during both phases. Patents were asked to return the reply letters if specialists/hospital doctors obliged to reply. Results: Total of 90 patients were referred using the structured referral form during 1st phase. 80 letters (with reply form attached) were issued during the next six months. Patients were referred to eight different specialties. Not a single reply during the 1 st phase and there were six 6 (7.5%) replies during the 2 nd phase. Discussion: This was an attempt to improve communication between specialists/hospital doctors and primary care doctors. Even though there was some improvement it was not satisfactory. A multicenter island wide study should be conducted to assess the acceptability of the format to primary care doctors and specialists and its impact on reply rate.


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