If your healthcare practice is like most, you may not have the best information on how patients arrive at your door. You likely have some high-level data: how each one heard about you (from their PCP, a family member, web search, etc.), the symptoms and conditions that led them to seek treatment and maybe even the name of the MD that referred them (if applicable). But, chances are, you don’t have a relational database that can track your referral network and incoming referrals alongside your patient information, care plans and outcomes.
So do you need that type of database? While many practices think of this area of their business as a “nice to have,” the opportunity here is significant. One survey found that 43 percent of referrals are made to providers that the referring physician doesn’t know well. With a bit of targeted outreach, your practice could easily redirect some of this 43 percent from other practices, to yours.
And that’s just one high-level reason to invest more energy in patient referral management. Here are 5 specific ways that better referral tracking can help you get targeted with your physician outreach and bring more patients into your practice.
Patient Referral Management: Finding the Next Way to Grow Your Practice
1. Get a pulse on physician liaison performance
If your practice has physician liaisons responsible for referrer outreach, a patient referral management system can finally give them the data they deserve. Without this technology, they might lack a complete picture of the providers they’re calling on: their affiliations, all the locations they work at, etc. Even worse, your liaisons might not have a way of quantifying the impact of their efforts. Outside of word-of-mouth, they might not have any clue which activities (lunch and learns, office visits, you name it) turned into referrals, or which referrers represent the biggest opportunities.
But with the right technology solution, your physician liaisons can understand their accounts and performance in a much better light. Not only can they use this technology to develop a complete picture of the providers and physicians in their broader referral network, but they can also use it to compare their activities and the resulting referrals, side by side. It can give your liaisons a much better idea of how to maximize the impact of their efforts, to bring the most patients possible into your practice.
2. Ensure follow-through on referrals
You likely don’t need me to tell you about the communication gap that exists around referrals. Thirty-three percent of patients don’t follow up with the specialist they were referred to, after all. So the more proactive your practice can be when logging incoming referrals, the more you can reach out to these potential patients and ensure they follow through with the referral.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Studies have found that 25 to 50 percent of referring MDs don’t know the outcome of their referrals (whether the patient followed through or not). Better patient referral management allows you to build more effective communication not only with referred patients but also referring physicians. If MDs know that a patient sent your way is more likely to receive care, that source of referrals will only increase over time.
3. Identify your target market
Better referral tracking doesn’t just improve immediate compliance rates: It also can help your practice become more targeted and efficient with its outreach and marketing efforts. In fact, the better you track your incoming referrals, the better you can understand your target market. What percentage of your referrals come from PCPs? Other specialists? Nursing facilities? What’s the geographic reach of your referral network?
Understanding the answers to these questions can help you identify providers in your target market that aren’t sending referrals your way. Each of them presents an opportunity for growth, either by educating them about your practice or learning why they’re sending referrals elsewhere.
4. Boost referrals from existing referrers
Even if a provider is sending referrals your way, that doesn’t mean your work with them is finished. In fact, some of these providers may represent the best growth opportunities.
How? Well, it pays to dig one level deeper with your referral information. Which procedures are these providers referring you for? If you notice that some referrers are only sending you patients for some of your offerings (say, routine procedures) but not others (like more complex operations), it means they might not be aware of your full range of services. Educating them on these offerings could bring a swift boost in referrals from providers who already know and trust your practice.
5. Understand which physicians in your practice are pulling the most referrals
As you’re tracking where your referrals are coming from, you can also look at where they’re going to. When applicable, you can monitor the requested physician or location your referrers are sending their patients to. If one particular MD in your practice is responsible for the most referrals, it will benefit your entire business to figure out what they’re doing right. It could be a question of pre-existing relationships, or offer your practice an opportunity to improve your pull.
Interested in learning more on how patient referral management might look for your practice? Check out our patient referral tracking solution. This prebuilt, customizable tool helps your practice better understand the levers that boost your patient base, allowing you to get more targeted and efficient in your referrer outreach efforts. Or, you can find more healthcare resources here.