One in 40 pediatric office visits in the United States result in referral to subspecialty care, mostly for secondary opinion. The aim of this study was to evaluate the necessity of pediatric hematology referrals from Eastern New Mexico and West Texas to a tertiary university hospital. Retrospective data was obtained from chart review based on referrals made to the Southwest Cancer Center in Lubbock, TX for abnormal complete blood count or coagulation tests. Necessity of referrals were assessed according to patient laboratory values before referral, at initial visit, and whether therapy was started by the primary care physician (PCP). One hundred one patients met the study criteria during the period in review. The most common reasons of referral were iron deficiency anemia, leukopenia or leukocytosis and other types of anemia. About 33% of the referrals were determined to be manageable by a PCP as either the correct therapy had been already started before referral and/or the laboratory values were back to normal at the time of the first subspecialty visit. The total estimated cost of unnecessary referrals, including clinic visits and laboratories were $82,888 excluding mileage costs, days of work-school missed, and child care. Incorporation of referral guidelines, improving communication between PCP and subspecialties, and utilizing age-sex appropriate values in the interpretation of results could prevent excessive subspecialty referrals.
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