Oral Medicine referrals at a hospital-based practice in the United States

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The objective of this study was to characterize the outpatient oral medicine (OM) clinic at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), with particular emphasis on patient demographic characteristics and referral patterns.

Materials and Methods.

A retrospective case record review of all initial consultations with OM experts at BWH from 2008 to 2010 was conducted. Data included demographic information, type of medical insurance, reason for referral, referring doctor's specialty, and distance between the patient's home and the referring doctor as well as BWH, number of prior doctors seen for the presenting problem (per patient report), tests ordered at the consultation visit, and clinical diagnoses.


There were 1043 new outpatient consultation visits. Patients lived a median distance of 9.5 miles from the referring doctor and 18.9 miles from BWH and saw a median of one doctor (range 0-9) before consultation. Two thirds of patients were referred by physicians. The most common diagnoses included immune-mediated mucosal conditions (27.2%), orofacial pain disorders (25.1%), benign tumors or neoplasms (10.3%), and dysplasia and cancerous conditions (7.6%). Biopsy was the most frequent test performed at consultation.


Patients with oral conditions often see more than one doctor, before being referred to an OM expert and typically travel twice the distance to the expert compared with that between their home and the referring doctor. Equal efforts should be made to increase awareness of the importance of the specialty of OM among dentists, physicians, and the public.

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