Smooth over communication wrinkles when you refer to specialists, and provide better case management for your patients.
Ensuring smooth communication among your teammembers is a challenge. Now add in communicatingwith the team at a teaching or specialty hospital,and youâve got your hands overflowing-or at leastthatâs how it feels. Yet smooth communication betweenreferring practitioners and specialty clinicians is absolutelyimperative. And the absence of it is the biggest problemplaguing those relationships, says Dr. Stan Rubin, MS, Dipl.ACVIM. âMiscommunication can lead to differences inexpectations-and that causes problems,â he says.
Dr. Rubin has worked 22 years at the Veterinary TeachingHospital at Western College of Veterinary Medicine,University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.He says wires commonly get crossed over time and money.âA referring veterinarian might tell an owner how muchitâs going to cost when in fact he or she has seriously underestimatedthings,â says Dr. Rubin. âItâs better to tell theclient you donât know how much the treatment will cost.â
A similar misunderstanding happens with time. âSay apatient is referred for lameness,â he says, âand the clientgoes through a great deal of time and trouble to get to theteaching hospital only to discover that the animal does needsurgery but the hospital canât do if for two or three weeks.â
Dr. Rubin says the ideal is for the referring veterinarianto actually talk to the specialty clinician or referral coordinatorabout the case. âThatâs really the only way to get agood idea of prices and whatâs going on,â he says.
One of the best ways to improve communication overall, Dr.Rubin says, is to use a referral form. Many universities andspecialty practices have referral forms. If they donât, use theone posted at vetecon.com as a starting point. Include thepatientâs history, physical exam results, abnormal diagnostictest results, and your diagnosis or differential diagnoses.Also summarize your case management, including drugsand fluids administered and the patientâs response to therapy.Provide copies of laboratory results and radiographsand offer any insights about your expectations of patientmanagement, such as further diagnostic tests or surgery.
In an ideal world, youâd fill out such a form every timeyou refer a patient, says Dr. Rubin. But he knows that withlimited time and resources, sometimes this important stepgets skipped-especially when the case is urgent. At thevery least, he recommends you send a cover letter thatsummarizes the case and the direction you think it needsto go. âThe more urgent a referral, the more important thisinformation becomes,â he says. âAnd, thereâs a biggerchance for miscommunication without it.â
Even sending just photocopies of the animalâs recordisnât as effective as providing a form with the exact informationrelevant to the case at hand, Dr. Rubin says. âSomebodyhas to go through a sometimes lengthy record page bypage to gain insight into the case. Itâs so much more effectiveto receive a summary and copies of lab work.â
Miscommunication is the biggest problem between referring general practitioners and specialists, Dr. Stan Rubin says. Use a referral formlike the one posted at vetecon.com to help improve patient care.