Referring Patients to Seattle Children’s

New Referral Policies and PCP Resources

Updated May 2020.

Seattle Children’s has updated our referral policies for many of our specialty clinics, including:

Referral policies can be found on our “Referral Information by Clinic” page.

In some cases, referrals will be re-directed to primary care. To aid PCPs, we have developed resources including many new algorithms to help assess and manage patients’ conditions. These are available on each clinic’s “Refer a Patient” page. We also have collected all the algorithms together on our “Algorithms for PCPs” page for easy access.

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Why We Are Updating Referral Guidelines

Updated May 2020

As our region grows, Seattle Children’s remains committed to expanding specialty services to meet the needs of patients, families and our referring provider community.

Our challenge: access to certain specialty clinics

We recognize that several of our specialty clinics have extended wait times. This is largely due to increased referral volumes, provider departures and recruitment challenges associated with a nationwide shortage of pediatric specialties in areas such as genetics, neurodevelopmental, psychiatry, ophthalmology and rheumatology. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating this situation because we are following public health guidance to limit non-urgent and elective appointments to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.    

Note that these access challenges are not in all specialties. We have many clinics with access for new patients within 30 days or less, including cardiology, diabetes, general surgery, infectious diseases, nephrology, neurosurgery, orthopedics and otolaryngology. Our expanded telehealth offering during COVID-19 is helping us continue to offer appointments to patients in a timely manner in many specialties.

What we are doing to improve access

We are actively addressing operational inefficiencies that we identified last year during a detailed assessment of clinic access. Steps we are taking:

  • Scheduling optimization – Implementing numerous changes in our scheduling process, system and clinic staffing model; these changes will increase the number of patients seen in each clinic session, enable scheduling when families call for an appointment and increase outreach to families to schedule.
  • Referral management – Defining diagnoses, conditions and patient populations that must be seen on a timely basis for clinical reasons, clarifying services that we cannot offer and requiring data on referrals to support triage. This includes:
    • Limiting care in some specialties for patients over 18 when appropriate by transitioning current patients and directing new patients to adult care. We are currently accepting inpatients age 21 and under to help alleviate adult patient surges in other hospitals due to COVID-19.
    • Simplifying referral forms, and requiring completion of key data, including ICD-10 code and clinical reason for referral, to ensure accurate referral triage and scheduling.   
    • Recommending families seek care from their PCPs for certain common conditions (e.g., constipation and headache), when appropriate, and offering resources to support PCPs (e.g., algorithms for evaluation and treatment of common conditions) in the process.
  • Seattlechildrens.org updates – Refreshing our external website detail to increase the usefulness of the site for families and referring providers.
  • Provider recruitment – Securing additional recruiting resources to expedite recruitment and onboarding of new providers.
  • Epic implementation – Transitioning to a single Epic EHR system in Fall 2020 (delayed from May 2020 due to COVID-19) to offer multiple improvement opportunities across all functions and improve access to information and communication processes with patients and families, and allow referring providers to electronically submit referrals, view patient records online and more through EPIC-Care Link. More information on this will be provided in the coming months.

Our goal is to improve access and equity

Please know that our goal is to improve access to care across our specialties and put in place equitable policies that ensure those children who need us the most can be seen on a timely basis. We also want to support PCPs who are caring for children who are re-directed to primary care.

We are working collaboratively with Dr. Sheryl Morelli, division chief of Community Pediatrics at Seattle Children’s and chief medical officer at Seattle Children’s Care Network (SCCN), and our physician liaison team to support our efforts.

We are committed to being a collaborative partner to you in offering superior specialty clinical care for all children in our community.  

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