Background: Improving coordination of care and containing healthcare costs are prominent goals of healthcare reform. Specialist involvement in healthcare delivery transformation efforts like Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) is necessary to achieve these goals. However, patients' self-referrals to specialists may undermine care coordination and incur unnecessary costs if patients frequently receive care from specialists not engaged in such healthcare delivery transformation efforts. Additionally, frequent self-referrals may also diminish the incentive for specialist participation in reform endeavors like ACOs to get access to a referral base. Objective: To examine recent national trends in self-referred new visits to specialists. Study Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study of new ambulatory visits to specialists from 2000 to 2009 using data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Methods: We calculated nationally representative estimates of the proportion of new specialist visits through self-referrals among Medicare and private insurance beneficiaries. We also estimated the nationally representative absolute number of self-referred new specialist visits among both groups of beneficiaries. Results: Among Medicare and private insurance beneficiaries, self-referred visits declined from 32.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 24.0%-40.4%) to 19.6% (95% CI, 13.9%-23.3%) and from 32.4% (95% CI, 27.9%-36.8%) to 24.1% (95% CI,18.8%-29.4%), respectively. Hence, at least 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 new visits to specialists among Medicare and private insurance beneficiaries, respectively, are self-referred. Conclusions: The current considerable rate of self-referred new specialist visits among both Medicare and private insurance beneficiaries may have adverse implications for organizations attempting to transform healthcare delivery with improved care coordination.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||American Journal of Managed Care|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2014|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy