Penn Medicine


Enhancing Communication with Referring Providers


By enhancing the communication of clinical information between referring primary care providers and Penn Medicine specialists, we can increase care continuity, drive increased referral volume to the system, and improve care delivery and patient experience.

 In 2014, the Quality Domain of the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania (CPUP) identified improved communication with referring providers as an area of focus.


We partnered with the Quality Domain to conduct an assessment of the unmet communication needs of referring providers and the barriers faced by specialists trying to meet those needs.  The goal was to bring the voice of referring and treating providers to the table prior to determining next steps. 

We conducted interviews with 33 people in roles throughout the clinical communication process including 12 referring physicians and 2 support staff; 6 treating physicians and 3 support staff; and 10 members of Penn Medicine hospital and department administration, Information Services, and Marketing.


We delivered a report of user-driven insights on communication.  In the report we:

  • Specified the value of better communication in the words of referring providers and translated those benefits into values for specialists and the health system.
  • Mapped the seven communication-relevant touch points of referred patients as they receive care at Penn Medicine alongside current breakdowns.
  • Identified referring providers’ desired future state for each communication-relevant touch point.
  • Described five major barriers faced by specialists trying to meet the communication needs of their referring providers due to workflow and system configuration.
  • Provided specialist proposed solutions to each barrier. 
  • And, produced a set of immediate and long-term recommendations for action.

Our recommendations are currently being used by leadership at CPUP to guide efforts to improve communication between referring providers and specialists.  


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