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Referral vs. Prescription

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

(Opinion Piece)

Is there a difference between a referral and a prescription?

The obvious answer to this question is, yes. But how does the average patient perceive the difference between the two? In general, prescriptions made by providers are to be followed with strict instructions. A patient will take their medication prescription to the pharmacy, fill the prescription, and take the medication as directed. This is an understood process that that is not often questioned by a patient. Is the same true for when a provider makes a referral to another provider, agency, or service? The process is much more ambiguous and relies on the patient’s engagement in their own treatment.

Many of our programs express issues with patients receiving a referral from their provider but not wanting to participate in treatment. Could it be that the referral for a patient to participate in our program is perceived as a recommendation rather than a prescription?

This might provide us with an opportunity to speak with providers in our community about framing these referrals as prescriptions rather than recommendations. This could lead to more follow-through on the patient’s part in engaging in their own treatment.

Jacob Shaheen

Director of Business Development

UltraGroup Healthcare

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