Medical Definition of Referral

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Referral: The recommendation of a medical or paramedical professional. If you get a referral to ophthalmology, for example, you are being sent to the eye doctor. In HMOs and other managed care schemes, a referral is usually necessary to see any practitioner or specialist other than your primary care physician (PCP), if you want the service to be covered. The referral is obtained from your PCP, who may require a telephone or office consultation first.

The term "referral" can refer both to the act of sending you to another doctor or therapist, and to the actual paper authorizing your visit.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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