The Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS) experts are a harried lot these days. Despite their repeated instructions, the general practitioners aren't adhering to the standard referral format—containing details of tests and medical history of the patients referred to the specialist institution.
PGI experts say most of the time the practitioners refer the patients to the institution in a critical condition. With nil details of treatment history, the doctors at the PGI have to go all over again to identify the level of ailment and the required treatment.
"This may be risky for the patient," fear an expert, detailing how PGI doctors are made to hunt the history more than focusing on the life-saving treatment at the critical hour.
At least 80% patients referred by physicians don't come with a proper summary of the case. Experts say the referral slip is not just a letter of recommendation but also a medical document carrying necessary details and analysis about the person.
It may carry basic vital information like what the patient is allergic to or how many times he has undergone a particular drug treatment. The problems faced by the experts is more when patients come in critical condition from places like Bihar, Odisha, Nepal etc. without any pathological test reports, X-rays, scans or MRIs.
A physician cannot be absolved of his duties unless his patient is admitted by the hospital where he has been referred to and treatment is started, said director SGPGIMS RK Sharma.
Private hospitals must call up the institution before referring a critical patient there. They should enquire about the availability of ventilators and brief the expert concerned on the patient's history.
"But they never do it. This is unethical," said Sharma adding, "Precious time could be saved if the referred patients carry all the pathological reports, scans, MRIs , X-Rays, ultrasound reports etc. Little information could save a life."
Urology head of department Rakesh Kapoor said, "Patient care depends absolutely on timely exchange of information between treating doctors. A complete referral letter or slip is a must for the general physicians." He also said, "We are in a fix when a patient with kidney failure walks in without any papers. We have to conduct all the tests again and the time, which is very crucial for his recovery, is lost. If the physician is unable to write case history properly then he can always call us and brief us about the treatment given by him to the patient."
According to reports published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, an academic journal, researchers from Harvard Medical School say that a doctor referred a patient to another doctor, often a specialist, has nearly doubled from 1999 to 2009.