Telehealth Provider Referrals: When Additional Help is Needed

Telehealth has opened up new possibilities for people in need of medical care, providing access to treatment services in the comfort and safety of their own homes. One crucial aspect of telehealth involves referrals to specialists who can assist with treatment outside of the primary care physician.


The process of making a referral typically starts with the primary care provider (PCP) or the specialist initially offering the patient the option of a referral. At this point, the PCP will ascertain the clinical needs of the patient to determine the best specialist to refer them to, taking into account any relevant personal and medical history. Depending on the condition that requires treatment, a referral to an oncologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, or many other specialties may be recommended.


Once the referral has been made, the goal is to ensure that the specialist is able to provide the same quality of care they would give to a patient in person. To do this, telehealth technology needs to be utilized. This can include video calls, where the patient and specialist can meet online, and also other digital resources, such as secure messaging platforms to communicate and review medical records. Furthermore, many studies have demonstrated that telehealth enables remote specialists to adequately diagnose and make sound treatment recommendations, resulting in improved patient outcomes and satisfaction.


A crucial component of effective remote referrals is that the patient is made aware of all the options available to them. This includes consultations with specialists operating within the same or different health systems, and also drug treatments that may be recommended along with therapy. When making a referral to a specialist, the PCP will typically provide the patient with an explanation of the condition, the expected course of treatment, and the potential risks involved.


For the referral process to be successful, the specialist needs to be able to properly assess the patient’s physical, psychological, and social needs. This can be more challenging depending on the complexity of the case, but there are tools to support the specialist in making an accurate diagnosis and providing a suitable treatment plan. One example is the Global Risk Identification Model (GRID), which uses algorithms to assess a patient’s psychological state.


The use of telehealth for remote specialist referrals might be a relatively new concept, but it has proven to be a safe and effective way to provide care for many patients. By having access to specialists from outside the local area, this could lead to more opportunities for the patient to get the right treatment they deserve.