Referral Decision-Making and Care Continuity in Physical Therapist Practice

Seth Peterson, John Heick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Efficient referral pathways have held promise in improving clinical outcomes, raising patient satisfaction, and reducing costs. Referral decision-making presents a distinct challenge because it requires the consideration of such variables as technology, health-care systems, and local resources. However, best practices for generating a high-value referral and improving care continuity are rarely discussed in the context of physical therapist practice. With physical therapists in some states obtaining explicit imaging privileges and a renewed focus on the physical therapist's role in primary care and patient management over the lifespan, it is time to focus on this underappreciated area of practice. This perspective discusses referral decision-making and provides recommendations for making a high-value referral and improving care continuity. Improving referral and care continuity has potential to enhance clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction and to reduce costs. This perspective explicitly defines and describes strategies to improve physical therapist decision-making about referral and care continuity to improve overall patient management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzad030
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2023


  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Decision-Making: Clinical
  • Primary Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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