Patient referrals from other physicians are the backbone of the business of healthcare. The relationships cultivated between physicians ensures they continue to receive a steady supply of patients and that a patient's care is properly coordinated. There are over 210 million referrals each year, resulting in billions of dollars of revenue. Yet, despite referred patients being vital to a healthcare organization's business, 50% of referred patients are never seen by the referred physician. This is often due to a lack of a digital strategy to manage referrals, instead relying on faxes and data re-entry by staff. Continued patient engagement is also vital to bringing them into a new practice and reminding them of the importance of the appointment. Here are 4 steps to manage you referrals and increase your referral completion rate.
1. Intake referrals through a web page, not the fax
Even in 2019, the primary method to receive new patient referrals is through the fax machine. A referring provider has to find the forms you require on your website, print them out, write in the patient's information, then fax these forms to the correct fax number, of which there are often several numbers for each different department. How is the referring provider supposed to get this correct every time? In addition, now they have to remember to go back into their EHR, find the patient's records, and fax those to you as well. This multi-step process is why, according to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, more than two-thirds of specialists report that they did not receive all the information they need from a PCP to properly treat a patient prior to seeing them. Having a single, secure web page where PCPs can electronically fill out patient information and upload the medical records, all at one time, results in significantly fewer referred patients without records. This saves staff hours a day having to call referring providers to get the records they need. Finally, with an electronic referral intake system, the referrals can integrate directly with your EHR, ensuring there are no errors with data re-entry by staff, and cutting down time between patients getting referred to being scheduled.
2. Automate patient engagement and reduce no-shows
In order to properly keep a patient engaged as they transition care and ensure they don't fall through the on-boarding funnel, it is important to communicate with them at each step in the process. This means the patient should be notified at the time the referral is received, leading up to the appointment with any instructions, and again after the appointment to check in. It is not realistic to think that staff can reach out to patients through text/email/phone calls this many times. Using software to automate this process saves staff a huge amount of time that can be spent on more complex tasks. Patients should be notified in their preferred medium of communication, using their preferred language of choice, that they have been referred by physician A to physician B and that they will be receiving a call soon to schedule an appointment (bonus points if they can schedule an appointment from their phone right then). Next, new patients with no history of appointment attendance at your clinic should receive communication not only reminding them about their appointment, but asking if they have transportation and the ability to get off work. No-shows cost the industry approximately $150 billion a year and a third of patients do not end up seeing the specialist after being referred to them. Additionally, social determinants of health such as the ability to get off work and get a ride to the clinic are a major contributing factor to no-shows. Using software to do this outreach is not only good for business, but it keeps patients healthier and out of the hospital.
3. Keep referring physicians happy
According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, 40% of referring physicians never receive consult notes, care plans, or records back from the specialist about the patient. This hurts the PCP not only because they are the ones charged with coordinating care for the patient, but also because they rely on these records to ensure the patient is following the care plan and staying out of the hospital. This care coordination is vital to the PCP's ability to get high performance scores for value-based care payment models. In addition, because the referral process is so relationship driven, physicians are much more likely to continue to refer patients to specialists that do communicate and coordinate about a patient with them. It is easy to forget to send records back to a PCP after a busy day of seeing patients. This is why software that automates this record transfer after the encounter can be extremely vital to all parties.
4. Text message-like communication between PCP and specialist
Just as everyone else in the world is going mobile, so too are physicians. A secure messaging platform for physicians to communicate, engage, and collaborate on a patient's care plan helps reduce the chance of medical errors as the patient transitions care from one physician to another. When medical errors due to miscommunication during care transition are the third leading cause of death in the US, it is not acceptable that the main method of communication between physicians of different clinics is the fax machine. Additionally, by utilizing a secure app to communicate over, physicians can more easily and quickly exchange thoughts and notes, helping both parties learn and grow in their profession and skills.
Akute Health's care coordination software can drastically improve your referral completion rate, save significant staff time doing redundant administrative tasks, and keeps patients healthier. This software can be used by both the referring physician and the referee in order to bring more transparency to your referrals, where the patient is in the process of completing an appointment, and what the final care plan is. Sign up today to get a free demo and see how this technology can improve your practice's operational efficiency, revenue, and patient outcomes and experience.