4 Ideas To Improve Your Patient Referral Process In 2019

Patient Referral Program in hospitals

An effective patient referral system plays an important role in large enterprise hospitals, specialty hospitals and health systems. It is an integral way of ensuring the patients receive optimal care at the right time by the right care providers.

Unfortunately, like a chain, a patient referral process is only as strong as its weakest link. Often referral systems are weakened by the use of old-fashioned fax machines to process referrals. It  compromises the system and creates hazzles for providers and patients to navigate. This reasons why only 54% of referrals result in a completed appointment.

With focused efforts and the right resources, it is possible to enhance the existing referral process and make it more efficient and timely. The referral process must improve office practices and increase patient satisfaction and referral compliance.

Most common problem

Majority of healthcare providers experience major issues related to coordination or communication between relevant departments in their referral systems. These issues tend to have a bad impact on patient satisfaction, clinical care and outcomes.

For instance, according to the Journal of General Internal Medicine, more than two-thirds (68%) of specialists receive no information from primary care physicians (PCPs) prior to referral visits. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, an astounding 40% of PCPs do not receive consult reports back from specialists following referrals.

Any referral inbound-heavy healthcare system would have faced the above issues. These issues would jeopardize an organization’s reputation, revenue streams and professional relationships. Referrals in inbound-heavy healthcare systems were often mishandled or dropped altogether, forcing referring providers, patients or their representatives to intercede and quarterback the referral process themselves.

It is recommended that such inbound-heavy healthcare systems require a standardized, enterprise-wide process for handling referrals. The healthcare system needs a better solution to support referring providers’ needs, which would significantly improve the handling of incoming patient referrals.

4 Ideas to Improve Patient Referral Process

The following steps can be used by any referral inbound-heavy healthcare organization interested in improving their referral process,

1. Identifying the current and desired state

Before defining what is needed for a desired future state, any healthcare organization must first review and assess their current state. The healthcare system must create a team to determine

  • How the current referral system works
  • How the current referral system is not fully competent
  • Where and how the existing referral process requires changes
  • Who would be handling such changes
  • What next steps are needed

Now the healthcare system can achieve the desired future state with ease as the current state is clear.

2. Charting the desired future course

The next action would be to chart and determine the various referral handling scenarios. These scenarios should range from the seemingly simple, such as a referral to an orthopedic specialist for a fractured limb, to the more complicated ones, such as the referral of a patient with multiple complex chronic illnesses. All possible types of referrals must be accounted for, to ensure that they would be handled appropriately and consistently.

3. Shifting to electronic referrals

Healthcare systems who receive referrals are heavily reliant on fax-based referral systems. These systems require staffers to manually re-enter referrals is time-consuming, error-prone and a major bottleneck. Instead, healthcare systems must receive referrals in electronic forms. Electronic referrals save time for staffers, less prone to errors and are also easy to manage.

4. Creating a new standardized process

The team should then create a new, standardized process for inbound referrals and leverage the referral benefits offered by electronic channels of referrals. Critically, this should include plans for internally training their staff members on this new process. It will also overcome referring providers’ previous impressions of the healthcare system mishandling patient referrals.

You Can Too!

By following the steps listed above, it is possible to see improved referral-handling within just a few months. More importantly a healthcare system must invest on the right provider portal like HealthViewX.

It will provider tremendous improvement in return on investment. Patient satisfaction will improve with easier and more efficient access to quality care. And physicians and staff will no longer need to engage in time-consuming and costly rework, data entry and investigations simply to ensure that referrals are correctly processed. A true win/win for all!