Specialist referral process unclear for many parents

When a child’s primary care provider (PCP) recommends he or she see a specialist doctor –such as a cardiologist, ENT surgeon, or gastroenterologist – parents might be left with a lot of questions. Will the PCP choose the specialist or the parent? Will insurance cover the visit with the specialist? Who is responsible for arranging for the appointment?

We asked a national sample of parents with children age 5-17 for their views on referrals to specialist doctors. In this National Poll on Children’s Health, 46% of parents say at least one of their children has been referred to a specialist. While most parents agree that PCPs should provide medical records to the specialist and parents should make the call to set up the appointment, parents are divided on who’s responsible for choosing the specialist and making sure the wait time isn’t too long. Read the full report - Seeing specialists: Roles of parents & providers unclear.

Infographic - Specialist visits for kids: Parent views about who's responsible
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Parents also rated the importance of different characteristics of specialist doctors. Knowing how to take care of the child’s condition and having training in pediatrics are most important to parents. Fewer parents say drive time to the specialist and other parents recommending the specialist are very important factors to consider.

Watch this short video with Sarah Clark, NPCH Associate Director, to learn more about referrals to specialist doctors:

If you’d like help with the process for specialist referrals, take a look at this guide from a member of the University of Michigan Health System’s Physician and Consumer Communications Team - Seeing a specialist: How does it all work?