Referrals are a main facet of medicine’s ecosystem. Amino, a platform that synthesizes data from insurance companies to create a transparent healthcare marketplace, wanted to get a full perspective of how referrals work. So they evaluated 211 million inter-specialty referrals from 2016 to determine the top 50 most common referrals. They found that radiologists received more inbound referrals than any other specialist.
Amino’s data team discovered that internists, family practitioners, emergency medicine, pediatricians, and OB/GYNs made the most outbound referrals, and family practitioners and ER physicians had the highest quotas. They found that internists sent out 4.5 million referrals to gastroenterologists in 2016.
In the diagnosticians and specialists group, pathologists, anesthesiologists, allergists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, cardiologists, neurologists, physiatrists, dermatologists, ENTs, and radiation oncologists reported the most inbound referrals.
Out of the physicians sending outbound referrals, they found that internists made over 63 million referrals, a figure that largely surpassed other specialists: emergency medicine (21 million) OB/GYN (13 million), pediatricians (12 million), and surgeons (10 million). Twenty-five percent of the referrals instigated by internists were to radiologists, mainly for EKGs.
Radiologists topped the list of inbound referrals with nearly 70 million. X-rays made up 30 percent of total referrals. Cardiologists were the second highest receiver with 19 million. ER doctors made the most requests for diagnostic imaging than any other specialists, with 70 percent of referrals sent to radiologists, primarily for chest x-rays and CT scans. Radiologists only received 25 percent of internists referrals and 22 percent from family practitioners.
Amino’s study draws a provoking contrast to a report presented at the Western Regional Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Conference in 2015, which found that 97 percent of emergency physicians believe that the imaging services they order are “medically unnecessary.”