Specialty referral communication and completion in the community health center setting

Katharine E. Zuckerman, Kerrie Nelson, Tara K. Bryant, Karin Hobrecker, James M. Perrin, Karen Donelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objective: Parent and provider disagreement about children's care at the time of specialty referral may lead to incomplete referral, ie, not attending a specialty visit when referred. This study's objectives were first to assess parent-provider correlation in perspectives on referral necessity, seriousness of child's health problem, and parental understanding of referral among children referred to pediatric specialists, and second to assess whether these perspectives are associated with incomplete referral. Methods: Two months after specialty referral, parents and primary care providers completed a survey rating referral necessity, seriousness of problem, and parental understanding on a 4-part scale ("definitely yes" to "definitely no"). Parents were surveyed by telephone; providers completed one self-administered survey per referral. Using z tests and Pearson correlation coefficients, we summarized parent-provider agreement about referral necessity, seriousness of problem, and parent understanding. We applied logistic regression to test associations of parent and provider ratings for each variable with incomplete referral. Results: A total of 299 (60.0%) of 498 matched parent and provider surveys were included in the analysis. Parents had low correlation with providers in perspectives of referral necessity and seriousness of problem. Parents reported that referral was necessary more often than providers, and providers underestimated parents' self-reported understanding of the referral. Nearly 1 in 3 children had incomplete referral, and both parent and provider reports of lower necessity were associated with incomplete referral. Conclusions: Parents and providers hold divergent perspectives on referral necessity and seriousness of children's health problems; these perspectives may impact rates of incomplete referral. Improving communication around specialty referral might reduce incomplete referral.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-296
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • communication
  • community health centers
  • medical specialty
  • pediatrics
  • referral and consultation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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