Patient Perceptions of Referrals to Family Physician in Georgia
Adequate utilization of primary health care directly reflects the health status of a population. In Georgia many patients seek care without a referral by a primary-care provider, as a result, patient’s referral rate to a family physician is low. The tendency of patient’s self-referral behavior may reduce the effectiveness of the healthcare system. The research aims to study the cause of low referral rate to a family physician in Georgia. We used mixed method study which includes a quantitative survey of 300 patients and qualitative interviews with 20 family physicians in different cities and regions of Georgia. According to research patient’s referral rate to a family physician is low. 55% of family physicians revealed that patients had often addressed them only for the referral to specialists. 42% of patients visit the family physician once a year or do not visit at all and 57% do not consult with a family physician for preventive purpose. The result suggests that patient’s low referral rate is due to distrust towards family physicians, which is related to the lack of qualification of physicians and the low public awareness of the family doctor’s competence. Due to an inadequate reimbursement, family physicians do not have enough motivation to provide adequate service and lack of continuous education negatively affects their professional development. It is recommended to raise public awareness about the primary care, to introduce effective methods for payment of family doctors, to increase the role and affordability of continuous professional education.
Keywords - Primary Health Care, Family Physician, Family Medicine, Self-referral.