One of the essential ingredients of Medical Practice is communication with other health care professionals and in particular letters back to the referring doctor. This time consuming and expensive process is one of Hoxton’s key focuses. There are many ways to minimise the cost of medical transcription, and one is to improve how you write to referring doctors.
We have summarised our insights from speaking to hundreds of doctors about how they dictate and write letters, and also from GPs about what correspondence they prefer in response to referrals written to other specialists.
Specialists can avoid using up precious time dictating and typing letters by thinking of the audience when producing a letter.
Here a the top tips for minimising your time dictating and maximising the impact of your letters.
What GPs want from a specialist’s letter
Letters no longer than one-page
- GPs want letters they can read easily – they’re busy doctors
- Transcription should not be a substitute for your clinical notes nor a text book description of disease
- GP prefer a precise 2-minute transcription over a rambling 10-minute tome.
Do not repeat medical history documented elsewhere
- Your patient’s GP will know their history, do not repeat simple information back to them.
- Focus on medical history that is most relevant to your diagnosis and management decisions.
- The referral letter forms part of your contemporaneous medical notes – don’t automatically repeat information sent to you.
Be clear about your diagnosis, management and follow-up
- GPs prefer language that adds to their understanding of the patient’s problem.
- Specify what your diagnosis is, why the diagnosis was made, your management and follow-up plans.
Concisely list actions for GP – including change in medications
- Keep one section of your letter for tasks you’d like the GP and care team to action.
- Avoid hiding actions amongst the rest of the letter – best at the start or end of the letter.
Avoid patronising; thank your colleagues
- Referring doctors recognise the need for your specialist opinion – respond with respect.
- Your letter should reflect your willingness to contribute to patient care and good outcomes.