Caribou: What to Do When Your Doctors Aren't Talking to Each Other

September 10, 2020



September 10, 2020

A recent study found that while 70% of primary care physicians claimed that they forwarded a patient’s history to a specialist, fewer than 35% of those specialists reported actually receiving that information in time for the appointment. 

On the other hand, 81% of the specialists that were studied claimed that they usually send results back to the primary care doctor. In reality, only 62% of those doctors said they received that information. 

Doctors are undeniably busy, but it is dangerous to the patient if they don't take the time to get access to a patient's records. 

Although you will not have much control over whether or not your doctors communicate with each other, there are some things you can do to make sure that your doctor has all the information they need. 

1. Have a primary care doctor. 

If you see more than one doctor because you have more than one chronic condition, a primary care physician can help to ensure that each doctor is up to date. They will help facilitate communication among your specialists and you can also ask each specialist to send your records and visit notes to them. 

2. Have copies of your medical records handy. 

If you have multiple health care providers that prescribe medications, keep a folder of all your medical information and bring it with you to all your appointments. This way, you can share important facts on tests, treatments, and other things if your provider is not up to date. Some things to keep in your folder are:

  • A list of medications and supplements

  • Allergies

  • Major illnesses

  • Hospitalizations

  • Past surgeries 

You can also check your patient portal after visits to make sure your information is correct. 

3. Ask for and share your test results

When you have a test or procedure, ask when you can expect results before leaving. This way, you can follow up if you have not heard anything within the expected time frame. Once you receive your results, add it to your health folder and also ask that your primary care physician and other doctors receive the results, too. 

4. Know when communication is most critical.

At hospital discharge, patients should have a clear discharge plan because that is when they are most vulnerable to adverse drug events, misunderstandings about care instructions, and preventable readmissions. Information about which medications to use, when to schedule follow-up visits, and recommendations for recovery should be relayed to both the patient and whoever is with them before they leave the hospital. 

In addition to having a primary care physician be the main point of contact, you can also have a Healthcare Advisor help make sure all your doctors and specialists have the information they need, while also guiding you through other things like finding treatment options or specialists.