Five things your GP wants you to know about referrals

3 January 2018
 Categories: , Blog


Patients often need a referral when going to see a different doctor or a new allied health professional.  Many don't understand why the referral is so important or why they need to physically see their GP when getting a new referral.  They are more than just a piece of paper! Here are five things your GP wants you to know about your next referral.

Referrals are important communication devices

Seeing a new patient can be daunting for a doctor. Patients sometimes don't know all of the tests they've had done, the technical details about their conditions or exactly why they're seeing a particular doctor. A referral written by a doctor such as your GP is important to communicate this information, meaning your first appointment with a new treating doctor or allied health professional will go as smoothly as possible.

They're important for Medicare

Medicare requires that patients have a current referral for a specialist before a patient can claim back funds for any specialist appointment. This means that the referral must have been written before the specialist appointment, so they can't be backdated. This is important to ensure that federal health funds are directed appropriately.

Your GP's referral is worth just as much as one written by a hospital doctor

While hospital doctors such as other specialists can write shorter referrals it's best you see your GP. Your GP knows all of your health history best and can write a referral which contains all the relevant information. The referrals which are written by GPs last for 12 months (or sometimes even longer), whereas those written by other specialists generally only last for 3 months.

Referrals are essential for handing over care

Referrals are important for a smooth handover of patient care between different doctors. Whether your GP is handing over care of your diabetes to a new endocrinologist or you're at the end of a complex pregnancy and your obstetrician is handing your care back to your GP, the original referral is important. When handing over care to a doctor who hasn't seen you before it's important that your new doctor has all of the information they need and that they know who your regular doctor is so that they can gather any extra information. At the other end when a doctor no longer needs to care for you that referral will be important, but for different reasons.  They'll need to know which doctor they need to update about everything that has gone on.  It's also useful as a reminder of things such as which diagnoses or medications are new.

Your GP needs to see you before they write a new referral

Given all of the above, it's important that you make an appointment with your GP to get a new referral. It may be the first time you're seeing a particular doctor or that you're just after another referral as your last one expired.  Either way, writing a new referral is time-consuming and requires that your GP is up to date on your situation, such as any medications you're receiving, who else is involved in your care and any investigations that may be pending. While it can be inconvenient to make a GP appointment for a new referral it's important for your care to do so.