Referral patterns between the child health service, general practitioners, and secondary healthcare: a prospective descriptive study in the Netherlands

Rubin Einhorn, Just A H Eekhof, Adele C Engelberts, Ymte Groeneveld, Paul H Verkerk, Jan M Wit
European Journal of General Practice 2007, 13 (4): 225-30

BACKGROUND: In the Netherlands, preventive child health service (CHS) screening plays an important role in the early detection of congenital, developmental, physical, and mental disorders.

OBJECTIVE: To obtain insight into the referral patterns of children from CHS to general practitioners and from general practitioners to medical specialists.

METHODS: Prospective study over 6 months in a semi-urban area in the Netherlands. All correspondence from the participating doctors was sticker marked and, after each contact, a registration card was sent to a central secretariat. The referral stream between general practitioners and specialists or allied health professionals was extracted from a central database. The general practitioners and the participating paediatricians were asked to complete a questionnaire about the quality and necessity of the referral.

RESULTS: Out of an estimated 2600 examinations, 45 children were referred to their general practitioners for further examination. The problems of eight children were settled by the GP, 10 children were referred to allied health professionals, and 24 children were referred to specialists. The median time span of showing up at the GP's office was 6.5 days. Sixteen per cent showed up long after having been referred by the CHS. The parents of three children did not comply. Of the 397 referrals from GPs to medical specialists and allied health professionals, 8.5% were initiated by the CHS.

CONCLUSION: The amount of referrals from the CHS to GPs and of referrals from GPs to medical specialists and allied health professionals initiated by the CHS is low in terms of absolute percentages. Most referrals by the CHS were considered useful.

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