Ignored or skipped referrals seen as most common error

April 9, 2010

Researchers found 29 percent of patients age 65 or older referred to a specialist are never seen by that physician, according to a new study.

Researchers found 29 percent of patients age 65 or older referred to a specialist are never scheduled to be seen by that physician, according to a study by researchers at Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine. Thirty percent of those with an appointment never arrive at specialist's office.

"This is not necessarily the fault of patients or doctors alone, but it may take both working together-along with their health system-to correct this problem," says Michael Weiner, MD, lead author of the study, which was published in the February 2010 issue of Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. "Our study highlights how enormous a problem this is for patients who were not getting the specialized care they needed."

The study followed 6,785 primary care patients seen at an urban medical institution, with a mean age of 72. Medicare covered nearly all patients.