Referral Strategy Gone PRO

Top Hospitals Use this Recipe to Serve Up New Patient Volume
May 2, 2016

Referral Strategy Gone PRO

The needs of specialty-care physicians have changed radically over the past five years. Besides the Affordable Care Act and other changes at the insured level, increased diversification in the sub-specialty and specialty arenas – in which the types of specialties have increased between ten and twelve fold within the past decade – has been a shock to the referral system that was firmly established 10 years ago.

The advent of hospital-based medicine has meant a decrease in direct interaction between primary care and specialty care physicians. As opposed to primary care providers doing rounds and gathering largely anecdotal information from specialists within the hospital, access changes have left primary care searching in the dark when it comes to identifying specialists to refer patients too. What’s left is an “education gap” that in the past answered questions like, “What type of patients do I send to that group?”, “What new procedures is that specialty group performing?” and “What types of clinical outcomes does that group have?” To combat this paradigm shift, specialty practice administrators have turned to physician liaisons to better educate referring physicians about the services offered by their team of specialists. Administrators need both a tool and a strategy to guide their liaisons and help them achieve their goals of increasing both the quantity and quality of referrals to their doctor teams.

The only way to have an effective marketing strategy is to have the right mechanism to report on the referral patterns of the specialty groups referring providers. The typical report initiated by administrators breaks down the volume of new referrals from a referring provider. Boiling that volume down and analyzing it for the quality of the patient referral is far more complex and extremely time intensive. Proactively targeting potential referral sources in the community and identifying decreased referral volume from current referral sources is beyond the limits of almost any current technology solution. The heavy burden of trying to manage these reports typically falls on the physician liaison, which is counterproductive in two major ways: 1) the liaison spends less time in the field growing referral volume and 2) the reporting is lackluster because it is not detailed enough to provide the administrator with the information needed to make true, strategic decisions.

Administrators and liaisons need a tool that centralizes all of their business development activities. Liaisons need a tool that helps them enhance current relationships with referral sources and identify new potential referral sources in their target market area. Administration needs to be able to access up to-date analytics on the trends of their referring providers: who is up? And who is down? They also need to be able to dissect referral sources based on the quality of their new patient volume: is this provider sending us the right types of patients? Is this provider sending us the right payor mix? Administrators need this data to point their marketing teams in the direction of the best quality referral volume, not just the most volume. Marketing dollars do not need to be spent growing new referral volume from sources that are sending referrals that yield a negative return for the group.

Utilization of a tool like MDreferralPRO provides groups many different methods of evaluating their marketing ROI. New referral volume and increased revenue are essential components of this program, but the most intrinsic ROI factor is time. A liaison is hired to be an extension of the specialty group in the community; this means they are hired to be outside of the office doing “what they do best,” talking to providers who could be referring new patients to the specialty care providers. If a liaison is spending time generating reports on their activities and trying to strategize about next steps, then they are missing crucial time that is better spent educating referring physicians. Specialty care administrators spend many hours each month with physician marketing teams dissecting new referral reports and strategizing on next steps to keep their group ahead of the other specialty clinic down the road.

Physicians want to see reports, specific to them, about their referring providers; putting together these reports monthly is a very time intensive proposition. How much more efficient and productive could a dynamic, specialty group be if administration and liaisons were able to make immediate, strategic marketing decisions based on accurate data that is already being collected by their front-desk departments?

The bottom line: Physicians are in business. Beyond that, their business is dynamic, and information – on referring sources, referred patients and procedures and where groups are not receiving referrals – drives administrative strategy. What this effort looks like, in terms of having more control over the financial success of a hospital or practice, is taking shape and will increasingly rely on technology-based marketing solutions, as businesses in other industries do. What we can do today is simply amazing, and it’s clearly only the beginning of this frontier in referral analytics.