Urgent self-referrals to ambulatory consultant a prospective evaluation of triage by a qualified family physician

Z. Alon, S. Vinker*, S. Nakar, H. Abu-Amar, G. Sadovsky, E. Hyam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Direct self-referral to a consultant, especially on an urgent basis, has not been widely explored before. The health insurance system in Israel permits elective direct self-referrals to various specialists, but the range and reasons of urgent self-referrals has not yet been evaluated. Our aim was to evaluate urgent self-referrals to ambulatory consultants and to see to what extent a qualified family physician can triage and treat those patients. The setting was an urban ambulatory multi-disciplinary consultation center in the city of Ashdod in central Israel, serving a population of approximately 150,000. Over a three-month period, all patients who made urgent self-referrals for an ambulatory consultant in Ophthalmology, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and Dermatology were triaged by an on-duty qualified family physician. The physician was instructed to take care of the patient in one of three ways: 1) immediate referral to a specialist; 2) begin treatment and schedule the patient for a specialist consultation; 3) administration of definitive treatment. Eight hundred and ninety-eight patients aged 46 ± 22 years were treated by the triaging family physician. Forty-six percent had ophthalmological symptoms, 26% had dermatological symptoms and 20% had ENT-related symptoms. A symptom duration of less than 24 hours was reported by 36% of the patients. Eye problems were more commonly of short duration (p < 0.001). Sixty percent of the patients were given a definitive treatment, another 19% were given immediate treatment and scheduled for elective consultation with a specialist and 21% were referred for an immediate specialist consultation. Of the immediate consultations, 73% were ophthalmological and 27% came from a range of other complaints (p < 0.001). Our conclusion was that a family physician can treat most of the urgent self-referrals to ambulatory consultations in the three domains that were evaluated. A triage system is particularly suitable for urgent self-referrals to ENT as well as dermatological problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-748
Number of pages5
JournalIsrael Journal of Medical Sciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1997


  • Consultation
  • Primary care
  • Self-referrals
  • Triage


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