A Study of the Performance of Referral System in Urban Family Physician Program in Fars Province, Iran

Zahra Kavosi, Elham Siavashi

Abstract


Introduction: The family physician referral system has been determined as a major goal to economic, social, and cultural development in the field of health in Iran. The necessity of implementing this system has been explicitly stated in high-level documents. Hence, the aim of this study was to evaluate the overall performance of the referral system in Fars Province in 2015.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 20% of family physicians (75 doctors) were randomly selected; then, all patients of these physicians (1289 patients) in one work shift were studied. The data were collected in three parts containing the questions related to the physician and patients using data collection forms. Finally, data analysis was performed through SPSS, version16, using descriptive statistics and Chi-square test.

Results: The results showed that 70.3% of the patients (906 patients) had used the referral system to visit specialists. Most of the referral forms had been completed correctly (63.6%). Most of the referrals (820 cases) were recognized as necessary (59.4%) and from the first level of referral, i.e. by the family physician (96.3%: 1241 cases). The patients aged 70 and over had the minimum self-referrals, whereas young people aged lower than 20 had the maximum selfreferrals (P=0.03). Also, more self-referrals were observed among highly educated patients (P=0.001).

Conclusion: Based on the findings, the most important problems of the referral system included self-referrals, incomplete referral forms, and unnecessary referrals. Self-referral could be solved through education, establishment of an electronic referral system, and legal measures. Also, educating doctors, making an electronic referral system, and using auxiliary staff and incentive measures can reduce the incompleteness of the referral forms. To reduce the patients’ unnecessary referrals, development of referral guidelines might be very effective.

Keywords: Family physician, Referral, Practice management


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