Creating high-value referral networks is the foundation of profitable practice operations. These networks pave the way for more streamlined referrals, more effective use of resources, and higher patient satisfaction and outcomes.
The ongoing challenge, however, is how to establish and nurture these relationships so that they remain financially beneficial for all parties involved.
Successful referral channels prioritize convenience, value, and patient satisfaction. By keeping these three key elements at the forefront of any referral network development strategy, providers can drive savings without sacrificing quality.
The ease by which referring physicians and their administrative staff can communicate and coordinate with a specialist is essential to developing sustainable, high-value referral channels. This must extend beyond simple responsiveness. Specialists can use technology to achieve this, but in and of itself, technology is not the answer. By ensuring a solid flow of information between providers and making it easy for administrative staff to make appointments for patients quickly, the referral relationship will become stronger and more effective.
One of the most powerful ways to bring down the cost of medical care is to improve efficiencies and avoid duplication of services. These can be achieved through a robust exchange of information and close care coordination. By prioritizing this aspect of the referral process, providers can reduce costs and further solidify their status as a preferred referral partner.
A patient’s experience with a specialist begins before the referral is ever made. Specialists that accommodate the patient’s appointment preferences make it easier for them to receive timely care. This sets the stage for a positive patient experience, which affects reputation among both patients and referring physicians.
The benefits of strong referral channels are deep and varied. In addition to creating a loyal relationship with referral partners, practices can enjoy an improved brand reputation in their communities, as well as a sustainable patient pipeline.
The question then becomes how to target the most potentially lucrative referral partners and how to build those relationships.
A recent survey published by Modern Healthcare showed that nearly 75% of primary care physicians usually refer patients to the same provider for a given specialty.  This indicates that physicians may be inadvertently ignoring specialists who could provide more appropriate care for their patients.
Specialty practices can begin developing these essential relationships by identifying optimal referral partners. Using claims data, specialists can determine which physicians have a higher volume of high-value referrals to their specialty. They can then more effectively and efficiently target only those that have the highest potential of becoming long-term, profitable relationships. 
By sharing the win-win benefits of improved care coordination, reduced costs, and optimized efficiencies, specialists can better nurture these relationships. And when patients are referred to the most appropriate specialists, both outcomes and patient satisfaction improve. This further solidifies the relationship between the providers and helps strengthen long-term financial success for both.