How Can A Patient Referral Management Software Help Federally Qualified Health Centers In Solving The Opioid Crisis?

What are opioids?

Opioids are a drug class that includes the illegal drug heroin as well as powerful pain relievers, such as

  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl

and many others.

Why is there an opioid overdose crisis in USA?

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers. So healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids. It all happened even before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.

How has the opioid crisis affected the American population?

  • In 2016, more than 42,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids. About 40% of all opioid overdose deaths were because of prescriptions.
  • Every day in the U.S., hospitals treat more than 1,000 people in emergency departments for not using prescription opioids as directed.
  • On an average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
  • Roughly 21 to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6% who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
  • Opioid overdoses increased 30% from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70% from July 2016 through September 2017.
  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54% in 16 states

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and opioid addiction is driving this epidemic.

What are the measures taken up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)?

In response to the opioid crisis, HHS is focusing its efforts on five major priorities:

  • Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  • Promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance
  • Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction
  • Advancing better practices for pain management

How does the opioid crisis impact Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)?

Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the United States is a non-profit entity consisting of clinical care providers, that work at comprehensive federal standards. FQHC is a dominant model for providing integrated primary care and public health services to low-income and underserved population. To receive federal funding, FQHCs must meet the following requirements.

  • Be in a federally designated medically underserved area (MUA) or serve medically underserved populations (MUP)
  • Provide comprehensive primary care
  • Adjust charges for health services on a sliding fee schedule according to patient income
  • Be governed by a community board of which most of the members are patients at the FQHC

The opioid crisis is taking a hit at FQHCs because it is affecting the poorer population to a greater extent. The underserved population is more affected by this crisis because they are not able to give up on opioids even when they cannot afford it. When such patients visit an FQHC, the physicians must refer them to deaddiction centers or rehabilitation centers for treatment. Considering the increasing number of opioid addicts, the number of patients visiting FQHCs will also be more. This implies that FQHCs have to create more referrals every day. FQHCs are finding it difficult to handle such a huge number of referrals.

Challenges faced by FQHCs

  • Prior Authorization – The referral coordinator does the insurance pre-authorization for the patient referrals in healthcare. Considering that physicians refer one out of every three patients to a specialist, it is difficult to do prior authorization. This makes patient referral system time-consuming and ineffective.
  • Finding the right specialist/imaging center – There is no effective approach to finding the right specialist/imaging center. So the chances of missing out on a good specialist/imaging center are high. The list of imaging centers and specialists an FQHC has will not be up-to-date as new specialists and imaging centers are opening up often.
  • Open Referral loops – This happens when the receiving provider fails to update the progress of the referral. 25% to 50% of referring physicians do not know if their patients actually visit the specialist or imaging center. As many patient referrals are initiated on a daily basis, tracking it manually is difficult for the referring provider. This ultimately results in an open patient referral loop.
  • Patient referral leakage –  When a patient moves out of the network, it results in patient referral leakage. It has an effect on the revenue. The main problem with this is the missed revenue opportunities for health systems. These organizations miss out on reimbursement for medical services that they had provided earlier when patient leakage occurs. This applies to healthcare systems that adopt value-based care or payment models such as accountable care organizations (ACOs).
  • Outdated referral workflow – The current referral workflow is outdated. The providers find it difficult to cope up with the increasing patient referrals in healthcare. On an average, a referring provider spends half an hour to one hour per referral and even more time in following up.

How can HealthViewX Patient Referral Management solution help FQHCs?

A typical FQHC does a lot of outbound referrals where the PCP’s refers his patient to a specialist practice when the patient needs expert advice or advanced treatment for a specific problem. The PCP generates a referral request with the EHR system to a central team that has referral coordinators. The patient’s insurance is pre-authorized, the physician refers the patient is to a specialist or imaging center. This is how a referral works. It involves a lot of manual work and keeping track of the referral is highly impossible because a referral coordinator deals with thousands of these in a day.

This is when an automated Healthcare Patient Referral Management System comes in handy. Electronic healthcare referral management system helps healthcare organizations in the seamless processing of the referral process.

HealthViewX solution has implemented a referral consolidator that brings all the referrals in a single queue. The referral coordinator can validate the documents, attach new ones, merge it to an existing referral, create a new referral for it etc. The feature also lets the referral coordinator validate the patient insurance eligibility. Based on the specialist availability the referral coordinator can create a referral. The system can integrate with EMR/EHR and can also coordinate between the referring and the receiving sides. A referral has a status attached to it looking at which the referring provider can understand in what stage the referral is. Any referral has a timeline view which is common to both the receiving and the referring providers. In the timeline view history of the referral can be seen for eg: patiently related notes, previous status of the referral, etc. Documents attachment and status change can also be done at any time of the referral process. With the help of HealthViewX Patient Referral Management solution, the referring and the receiving provider can always have an eye on the referral and also close it in time.

HealthViewX Patient Referral Management Solution features

  • Insurance Pre-authorization – HealthViewX solution supports automated insurance pre-authorization that reduces the manual work of the referral coordinators.
  • Intelligent Provider Match – The solution supports an “Intelligent Provider Match” Feature that helps in finding the right specialist/imaging center easily.
  • Seamless communication – HealthViewX solution has an inbuilt audio calling and messaging application which is secure and enables faster communication
  • HIPAA compliant data security – The solution is HIPAA compliant and offers secure data exchange. It supports almost all formats of files and keeps the patient documents safe.
  • Referral history – The timeline view provides the history and current status of the referral. A status helps in knowing the referral progress.
  • Referral loop closure – Referral updates are hard to miss that makes it easier to close the referral loops on time.

HealthViewX Patient Referral Management application solves most of the outbound referral problems for FQHCs. To know more about HealthViewX solution, schedule a demo with us. Our patient referral management experts will guide you through our HIPAA-compliant solution.