PCP Referral Patterns for Spinal Manipulative Therapy

June 13, 2013

PCP Referral Patterns for Spinal Manipulative TherapyMany of your patients come to you because of a referral from another health-care provider. If referrals generate a significant number of new patients for your chiropractic practice, or if you want them to, you may wonder what factors determine whether or not other doctors tell their patients to seek Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in general, and chiropractic in particular.

In the interest of finding out more about this topic, a new study analyzed referral patterns of primary care providers (PCPs) in the UK. Researchers sought more information about doctors' beliefs about spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) and whether or not they were referring back-pain patients to chiropractors and other SMT providers.

Researchers designed and piloted a short questionnaire for PCPs in Wales. Of the surveys mailed out, about half were returned, for a total of 182 questionnaires.

Of the responders, two-thirds were male, 79% were aged 40 or older, and 62% had less than 20 years in practice. The researchers noted that these demographics were generally reflective of the total population of PCPs in Wales at the time of the study.

Of the 182 participants, 48 doctors had sought SMT treatment for themselves, and another 56% indicated that they would consider doing so.

Regarding patient referrals, 72% of the physicians reported they had referred back-pain patients to SMT and another 13% said they would consider making such a referral.

If these survey results are reflective of the general population of PCPs, not only in Wales but where your chiropractic practice is located, this is all good news about PCP attitude regarding manual therapy in treating patients. Doctors that pass on to their patients not only acceptance of CAM, but also recommendations for CAM, offer great potential for more chiropractic clients for your practice.

The bad news from the study? Of the respondents who indicated the type of SMT provider they preferred to refer patients to, the most common provider was a physiotherapist, followed by an osteopath, followed by a chiropractor.

Because of this, the authors of the study recommended further investigation to determine the decision-making criteria for patient referral to subtypes of SMT practitioners. You can increase referrals to your chiropractic office by maintaining a relationship with other health-care providers in your community and providing professional and effective care for all your existing patients.

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Kier A, George M, McCarthy P. Survey based investigation into general practitioner referral patterns for spinal manipulative therapy. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2013; 12(16). doi: 10.1186/2045-709X-21-16.