Disrupting the Canadian patient-specialist referral process - can multimodal communication pathways empower the patient?

In general, Canadians are proud of their universal health care system, but an often heard complaint is the slow and convoluted specialist referral process, and the lengthy wait times to see specialists. An Ontarian waits, on average, 11.3 weeks for a non-urgent specialist referral and 7 weeks for an urgent specialist referral. (Keely and Liddy, 2019) Long waits for referrals disenfranchise the patient, and misplaced or overlooked referrals can have grave consequences and are frustrating for patients, and primary and secondary care providers.

This project explores whether alternative pathways patient-engagement might be effective in transforming the referral process. This study will be a content review of public facing multi-modal communication by medical specialists including, but not limited to: social media engagement, media appearances, public-facing websites and the presence of hospital profile pages. The study will categorize how specialists in the Ontario medical community use alternative modes of communication with their patients and identify trends in a) alternative forms of medical communication and b) specialists’ direct engagement with a public audience. If an alternative pathway to connecting patients and providers is possible, how might that empower both parties and result in a better referral and consultation process?

Julia Pellegrino
Faculty Supervisor: 
Jessica Mudry
Partner University: