Short Communication

Referral and triage patterns of a new rural paediatric outpatient service in south-western Victoria, Australia


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Jessica Beattie
1 MHHSM, Lecturer in Rural General Practice (Program Development and Support) * ORCID logo

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Britta Baade
2 FRACP, Consultant Paediatrician

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Lara Fuller
3 FRACGP, MBBS (Hons), GCME, Director of Rural Medical Education and Rural Community Clinical School ORCID logo


1, 3 Rural Community Clinical School, School of Medicine, Deakin University, PO Box 713 Colac, Vic. 3250, Australia

2 Portland District Heath, Bentinck St, Portland, Vic. 3305, Australia

ACCEPTED: 5 April 2023

early abstract:

Introduction: There is limited available information describing referral and triage patterns for rural paediatric outpatient clinics to guide health service planning and delivery. To address this, referrals for all new patients who attended an appointment during the initial year of a new rural paediatric outpatient service were examined.
Methods: A retrospective review of referrals with an initial consultation between 29 October 2018 and 28 October 2019.  
Results: 149 referrals for new patients were received, equating to a referral rate of 31.6 referrals per 1000 children for the service’s Local Government Area. 65.1% of new patients had not previously been engaged with a paediatric service. Overall, 66.6% of referrals were triaged as having a behavioural or developmental problem. The median time from referral letter to initial appointment was 63 days, with referrals triaged as behavioural or developmental having an median wait time of 86 days until initial appointment.
Conclusions: The establishment of this new rural paediatric service uncovered an latent need within the service’s LGA, as demonstrated by higher referral rates compared to previously published studies and a majority patient population who had not previously accessed paediatric services. The greatest area of need identified by referral analysis was for behavioural and developmental problems.