Dissertations & Theses (Open Access)

Graduation Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisory Committee

Kim Dunn, M.D., Ph.D.; James P. Turley, R.N, Ph.D.; Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D.; Dov Te’eni; Ph.D.


Similar to other health care processes, referrals are susceptible to breakdowns. These breakdowns in the referral process can lead to poor continuity of care, slow diagnostic processes, delays and repetition of tests, patient and provider dissatisfaction, and can lead to a loss of confidence in providers. These facts and the necessity for a deeper understanding of referrals in healthcare served as the motivation to conduct a comprehensive study of referrals.

The research began with the real problem and need to understand referral communication as a mean to improve patient care. Despite previous efforts to explain referrals and the dynamics and interrelations of the variables that influence referrals there is not a common, contemporary, and accepted definition of what a referral is in the health care context. The research agenda was guided by the need to explore referrals as an abstract concept by: 1) developing a conceptual definition of referrals, and 2) developing a model of referrals, to finally propose a 3) comprehensive research framework.

This dissertation has resulted in a standard conceptual definition of referrals and a model of referrals. In addition a mixed-method framework to evaluate referrals was proposed, and finally a data driven model was developed to predict whether a referral would be approved or denied by a specialty service. The three manuscripts included in this dissertation present the basis for studying and assessing referrals using a common framework that should allow an easier comparative research agenda to improve referrals taking into account the context where referrals occur.


Healthcare Referrals, Referral Communication; Referral and Consultation