Background: Little research has examined primary care provider (PCP) specialty referral practices, in particular the factors determining PCP satisfaction with the process. This study was designed to assess the relative importance of various factors in the referral process and to determine the level of satisfaction with existing service among PA's in Washington State.
Methods: 273 Washington Physician Assistants were surveyed by e-mail. They rated importance of, and satisfaction with, several factors that are involved with the referral of patients to specialists. Respondents indicated whether they perceived referrals to specialists to be harder for physician assistants than for physicians, and were also asked to identify a specialty that they perceived to offer excellent referral service. Demographic data was also collected on years in practice and community setting.
Results: Twenty two responses were received with 88 addresses deemed undeliverable (11.9% response rate). All factors were perceived as important, but only 'Quality of care' was significantly higher (p
Conclusions: Despite poor response, this study suggests that PA's consider similar factors (quality of service and ability to get appointments) as physicians to be important in the referral process and also that the level of service provision by specialists, while good, can still be improved. It also suggests that rural and urban P A's have similar feelings of satisfaction for the services that they are able to access as well as attach similar importance to the factors assessed as a part of this study. Future study with a larger sample size would allow better within-groups analysis of data and perhaps a more clinically applicable set of results.
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