Recently, there have been studies researching whether you’re likely to receive better care, if the specialist treating you knows your primary care physician. All studies have pointed to the answer being yes. Here’s an explanation:

Study By Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School made a study about whether there are any benefits to your treating specialist knowing the physician they’re referring you to. The study was published January 3rd, in JAMA Internal Medicine – which is a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal.
The study found, that patients in the care of specialists who trained with the patients’ primary care physicians (PCPs) were reporting that they were being treated with more concern, received clearer explanations, and experienced bigger engagement in shared decisions.

Who Was The Study About

The study is based purely on electronic health records of more than 8,600 patients, who were referred by their PCPs to see a specialist between 2016 and 2019. These were all referrals that occurred in a large academic health system. The researchers compared patient ratings between two groups:

  1. Those cared for by a specialist who trained with the patient’s primary care physician.
  2. Patients of the same primary care physician, cared for by a specialist who did not train with the primary care physician.

Most importantly, the researchers from Harvard Medical School were able to isolate the casual effect where patients were randomized to specialists. They did this by examining the referrals that were distributed to specialists by a scheduling system, rather than referrals where primary care physicians would specifically request a specialist.



The findings of the study suggest that implementing strategies that encourage strong peer relationships among physicians and specialists could lead to gains in the quality of patient care.

“What we think we uncovered here is the power of peer relationships in medicine, which has major implications for how care is organized and how physicians are, loosely speaking, managed” says McWilliams, one of the authors of the study.