Today’s referral is tomorrow’s repeat patient: referrals to and between medical outpatient clinics in a hospital

Mariam Safi*, Robyn Clay-Williams, Bettina Ravnborg Thude, Julija Vaisman, Frans Brandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: Unnecessary referrals in Danish hospitals may be contributing to inefficient use of health services already stretched and under pressure and may lead to delayed treatment for patients. Despite a growing awareness in the literature and in practice of issues related to referrals, there has been relatively little research on referrals between specialists in hospital outpatient clinics and how it can be improved. This study aimed to describe the referral patterns to and within the Medical Department at the University Hospital of Southern Denmark. The Medical Department consists of the following medical specialist outpatient clinics; nephrology, pulmonology, endocrinology, cardiovascular, wound outpatient clinic, and a day hospital. Methods: Two specialist physicians assessed all referrals to the medical specialist outpatient clinics over one month (from 01 September 2019 to 30 September 2019) using data drawn from the Danish electronic patient record system (Cosmic). Data on referral pattern, and patient age and sex, were statistically analysed to identify and characterise patterns of referral. Results: Four hundred seventy-one (100%) referrals were included in the study. 49.5% (233) of the referrals were from the hospital and 50.5% (238) from general practitioners (GPs). Of the 233 referrals from the hospitals, 31% (72) were from the Medical Department. Conclusion: The high rate of referrals (31%) from own Medical Department or outpatient clinics may reflect an inefficient internal referral process within the department. Improved collaboration between specialists could have the potential to improve health outcomes, timely access to care and more appropriate healthcare resource utilisation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number254
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Inter-departmental referrals
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Referrals
  • Secondary care
  • Specialization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital


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