Aim: To examine Australian private practice dietitians' relationships with general practitioners and practice nurses as a factor that influences dietetic referrals.
Methods: Semistructured telephone interviews and an online survey were conducted with Australian private practice dietitians (n = 52 and n = 90, respectively) between April and May 2008. Semistructured questionnaires were conducted with general practitioners (n = 11) and practice nurses (n = 12) from the ‘GP Access’ Division of General Practice between March and July 2007.
Results: General practitioners' relationships with dietitians were believed to be the primary influencing factor on referral, provided by 81% of survey dietitians and 25% of interview dietitians. The most common means of initially forming relationships with general practitioners were face-to-face introduction (48%) and introductory letters (37%). Patient feedback via letter, fax or email was the most popular method of maintaining relationships with general practitioners (77%). Meeting with general practitioners in person was believed to be the most effective activity in building relationships with general practitioners and increasing referral rates (42%). Referral was made easier for general practitioners by providing paper (37%) or electronic (19%) referral forms and contact details (19%). The majority of general practitioners and dietitians believed that the ‘Allied Health Services Under Medicare’ made it easier to refer to a dietitian.
Conclusions: Dietetic referrals can be encouraged through good relationships between general practitioners, practice nurses and dietitians. Private practice dietitians would benefit from cultivating relationships with general practitioners and practice nurses through personal contact and providing good patient feedback.