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Essay: Referral system turns patients into commodities

New York Times, May 26, 2009

Studies suggest that physicians receive up to 45% of new patients by referral, usually from other physicians. Also, referral rates to specialists in the United States are estimated to be at least twice as high as in Great Britain, says New York cardiologist and author Sandeep Jauhar in this essay published in the New York Times. The rates reflect several aspects of American medicine: increasing specialization, the lack of time for any doctor to give to complex cases, and fear of lawsuits over not consulting an expert, he says. But at the same time, Jauhar says referrals are a way for cash-strapped doctors to generate business.