Background. Specialist outreach consultations in the primary care setting have long been controversial with regard to both their effectiveness in treating patients and their potential in improving the interaction between family physicians and specialists. Objective. The aim of this study was to establish the prevalence and nature of outreach consultations in primary care clinics in Israel. Methods. Questionnaires were sent to the heads of all public family practices of the General Sick Fund in our district (38 practices with about 180,000 patients). All 38 practice managers returned completed questionnaires. Results. Twenty-eight of the 38 practices (74%) have some type of specialist consultation available within their clinics. The most common specialties providing outreach clinics are cardiology (47%), nephrology (45%) and internal medicine (39%), where the consultation was performed with the family physician and the patient present. Psychiatry consultations (42%), however, were generally performed without the patient being present. Most of the practice heads felt that in essence outreach clinics could be a positive way of treating their patients. Conclusions. Head physicians of primary care clinics tend to see outreach clinics as being a very positive tool with which to treat patients. Although many family physicians have some form of specialist consultation available, it is provided and performed mainly on an ad hoc basis. At present no data are available on how best to structure these consultations, or on which specialties outreach clinics are most suitable.
- Outreach clinics
- Specialist consultations