How a Failure to Refer Cases to a Medical Specialist Constitutes Medical Malpractice in New York

A general practitioner may not have the medical skills to identify or diagnose a disease with certainly. However, the physician has the obligation to refer the patient to a specialized physician who can. Certain circumstances establish standards where a reasonable physician is expected to refer a patient to a medical specialist. When a general practitioner fails to follow such standards, the patient can suffer serious harm from a lack of proper diagnosis and care. As a result, the practitioner may be subject to a medical malpractice lawsuit. Rich & Rich, P.C. in New York handles medical malpractice lawsuits based on the practitioner’s failure to refer.

In addition to filing a lawsuit you can also file a complaint against a doctor to prevent the error from being repeated with other patients.

How frequently do doctors refer patients?

According to an Archives of Internal Medicine article, Harvard Medical School researchers discovered that referrals from one doctor to another — and in particular to a specialist — almost doubled between 1999 and 2009. Estimates were that doctors decided 9.3 percent of the time in 2009 to send their patient to another doctor compared with 4.8 percent in 1999.

Why does a failure to refer occur?

Unfortunately, some failures to refer can occur because the doctor does not want to lose you as a patient. Doctors get paid for office visits, treatment and other services they offer. When sending a patient off to another doctor, the referral is not a source of income. A study reported by the National Institutes of Medicine showed that among the factors that a doctor considered when sending a patient to a specialist was the specialist's efforts to return the patient to the primary physician for care.

Other reasons are that the general practitioner may underestimate the seriousness of the illness or not recognize that the potential type of illness to send you to the right type of specialist.

Another type of referral is for diagnostic testing. Imaging centers today have doctors qualified to perform most diagnostic testing such as a CT (computerized tomography) scan, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or biopsies. Clinical laboratories analyze biopsy tissues, and other types of specialists, generally pathologists, become involved in that activity. In the case of cancer patients, when oncologists order radiation treatment, they send the patient to a radiation oncologist. As you can see, medical treatment for serious diseases is very sophisticated and involves a number of different specialists whose coordinated efforts help patients receive the right diagnosis and treatment.

If you believe that a failure to refer you to a medical specialist was instrumental in causing you or a loved one serious harm, consult with experienced medical malpractice lawyers about your right to pursue compensation for damages.

Don’t wait. Contact Rich & Rich, P.C. today.

We are conveniently located in Manhattan at 30 Vesey Street, New York, NY  10007