With value-based care and increasing patient self-pay, providers can’t afford to hold on to outdated, inefficient, costly workflows that further erode their bottom line. And when those processes harm care outcomes, it becomes even more urgent to rethink status quo processes. Such is the case with patient referrals.
Recent research shows that managing referrals online can nearly triple scheduling and reduce the median time to schedule an appointment by more than half . Resources that used to be dedicated to managing referrals can then be reappointed to other, more productive tasks.
Following are nine questions providers should ask when choosing an online referral solution.
Does it integrate with your existing practice systems? Some vendors work exclusively with particular practice management systems, so be sure to check that out first. You want a solution that is system-agnostic, so you don't have to worry about duplicate workflows or information falling through the cracks.
Does it require a large IT investment or extensive implementation? Choosing to adopt new technology is no small decision. Look for solutions that work entirely online so you can be up, running, and making a difference in hours—not days.
Is it easy to learn? Driving staff acceptance of any new system can be challenging. So look for a solution that has simple navigation and requires minimal training. If it’s not easy, staff will push back, and you will have wasted your money.
Does it help you identify the best specialists for each patient? Connecting the right specialist with the right patient can be challenging. Look for a solution that provides extensive detail about each specialist right on the screen so your staff can spend less time on research. Having the information upfront helps you establish relationships with specialists who embrace collaboration and who treat your patients well.
Will it allow you to customize online referral request forms? Specialists wanting to offer online referral forms for their practice should look for solutions that enable multiple types of information fields that are most pertinent to their practice. For example, an OB/GYN will need to collect different kinds of patient information than an orthopedist. Being able to choose what questions and fields are included can help specialists better prepare for the patient visit, which helps improve the patient experience.
Can it provide real-time insurance verification? Choosing to send your patients to an out-of-network specialist may cause patients to skip the appointment. Or it may result in your patient receiving a hefty “surprise” bill for more than they anticipated. This reflects poorly on the referring provider and can cause patients to put off necessary care in the future.
Does it include patient reminder texts? One of the top reasons patients don’t make appointments is that they simply forget. Referral solutions that enable automated text reminders can help reduce no-shows and increase referral completion.
Does it enable real-time provider-specialist coordination? 20% of all diagnostic errors can be traced to a breakdown in the referral process. And both PCPs and specialists report “timeliness of information” as their top issue with referrals. Look for solutions that eliminate phone tag and enable real-time comments for more effective collaboration.
Does it support your network growth goals? Building a network of providers can take years and resources many specialists don’t have. Using a solution that provides analytics on referral patterns can help you identify referral trends that are—or aren’t—working for you.
Moving to online referral coordination can increase referral completion rates to more than 95%.
Taking the first step
Patients trust their providers to do the right thing on their behalf. Managing referrals is one of those things. By switching to online referral management, providers can streamline the entire process, reducing phone calls, eliminating lost faxes, and ensuring patients get to the right specialist at the right time. Choosing the right online referral solution can drive more referrals faster while reducing costs, improving outcomes, and enhancing the patient experience.