Closing the Loop: A Guide to Safer Ambulatory Referrals in the EHR Era.

Institute for Healthcare Improvement; IHI; National Patient Safety Foundation; NPSF.

Missed and delayed diagnoses can stem from problems in the outpatient referral process. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement convened an expert panel aimed at addressing safety vulnerabilities in the current referral process. The report delineates nine steps in the referral process, starting from the primary care provider ordering the referral and ending with communication of the treatment plan to patients and families. Recommendations to improve this process include interoperability between primary care and subspecialty electronic health records, standardizing handoffs between providers, clear standards of accountability for patient follow-up, and use of evidence-based communication methods like teach-back with patients and families. The report concludes that prioritizing the safety of the referral process is important to reduce diagnostic errors.