BACKGROUND: Patients barely use publicly available quality information for making a decision concerning secondary health care, but instead rely on information coming from their general practitioner (GP). An intermediate role of GPs has been suggested concerning the use of publicly available quality information. The aim of the study is to quantify and explore GPs' use of publicly available quality information when referring patients or suggesting secondary health-care provider to them. METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, an invitation to an electronic questionnaire was sent to 858 GPs in the south of the Netherlands. GPs were asked about their use of and perception towards publicly available quality information through closed-ended and open-ended questions. Differences among subgroups were tested for significance using Pearson's chi-square tests. RESULTS: The majority of respondents (89.5%) never or rarely use publicly available quality information. They perceive them as invalid and unreliable. Distance to the hospital, prior experiences and personal contacts with specialists guide them when advising and referring. Almost 90% of respondents never or rarely suggest quality information as support for decision making to their patients. No significant differences between subgroups were observed. CONCLUSION: This study is among the firsts exploring and quantifying GPs' use of publicly available quality information. The results suggest that publicly available quality information appears in its current format and application not useful for GPs. GPs have to be aware of their influential role in patients' decision making and possibly have to take more responsibility in guiding them through the jungle of quality information.