Continuity of Care and Provider-to-Provider Communication

As medical practice becomes more complex and demanding, coordinating care between various providers involved in a patient’s care is a challenge. When multiple providers are involved in a specific case, complete and timely communication is key to ensure that care is coordinated and follow-up is adequate.

It is not unusual to hear from patients, "My providers don’t seem to talk to each other." Many PCPs tell us that they are unaware their patient received services from a specialist. These issues may be managed with effective systems for record review and feedback among practices.

Here are some simple steps that you can use to improve communications between your office and other specialists:

  • PCP offices may use original referral for specialty consultation forms as a "tickler" system. This form is filed in a "pending" drawer and only removed when the associated report has been received. The tickler file is compared against daily mail and faxes.
  • Referral "logs" can be used in a similar fashion. These can be put into an Excel spreadsheet for easier updates and tracking.
  • Consultation reports as well as other diagnostic information should not be filed into the medical record until the provider initials it as reviewed and indicates desired follow-up.
  • Some specialists call the referring PCP as they write or dictate visit notes to communicate that the patient has been evaluated. This typically is done through a messaging system, unless provider-to-provider contact is required for significant issues requiring rapid response. A written response is still important after the phone call.
  • PCPs are frequently unaware of the patient’s mental health status, including prescriptions that have been ordered. This makes it extremely difficult to coordinate medical care and ensure safety. A report to the patient’s provider, noting that the patient has been seen and medications ordered, is always important and will assist the PCP to manage other aspects of care.
  • There is a major national focus on patient safety, in the hospital, the office, and at the pharmacy. Provider-to-provider communication plays an important role in patient safety and always enhances care. Please do your best to improve this type of communication in your office and keep your patients safe.

* Printed copies of information posted on our website are available upon request.