Quality of Referral Letters Written By Family Physicians to Otologists -A Peer Assessment

Document Type : Original


1 Otolaryngology Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.

2 Otolaryngologist, Yasuj University of Medical Sciences, Yasuj, Iran.

3 Department of Community Medicine, Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran.


Otolaryngology is a field with a high referral rate; however, there is a dearth of research on the quality of referral letters written in this field. This study was carried out to explicitly assess the quality of referral letters, more specifically in the field of otology.
Materials and Methods:
Two otologists assessed referral letters written by general practitioners or primary care physicians working as family physicians. They were asked to make independent assessment on different variables related to the quality of referral letters and their appropriateness. A “qualified referral letter” in the current study is defined as a letter with standard items, including, description of chief complaint, description of associated symptoms, relevant physical findings, past medical history, drug history, family history, and reasons for referral.
A total of 1000 referral letters written by 652 primary care physicians were investigated in the current study. The obtained results indicated that 74% of referral letters to otologists contained inadequate information regarding various items in the referral letters. Symptoms, diagnosis, and signs were only reported in 28.3%, 28.9%, and 3.6% of the letters, respectively. The findings showed that most common reasons for referrals were uncertainty in diagnosis (52.4%), persistence of the patient (32.6%), and failed therapy (32%). With regards to case-specific conditions, the highest referral rates were related to external otitis, otitis media with effusion, and acute otitis media.
According to the obtained results of the current study, the content of referral letters were insufficient or inappropriate. Therefore, it is recommended to improve otolaryngology syllabus and provide suitable courses for undergraduate students in order to become familiar with the importance of referral letter writing.


Main Subjects

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