The City of Hope National Medical Center has waived a rule requiring that cancer patients be referred by a physician, meaning that people who suspect they have cancer can go directly to the hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Patients previously had to be referred by a physician who had made a preliminary diagnosis of cancer, said Bonnie Rogers, associate director of communications for the medical center.
Rogers said the focus of the self-referral program is on women who suspect they have breast cancer, because early detection is of primary importance in treating that form of the disease. The medical center hopes through the program to serve patients who do not have their own physician or otherwise might get no medical care because of rising health costs.
Although the center has been seeing patients without referrals on an informal basis for the past six months, Rogers said that people are just beginning to hear about the self-referral policy.