Stop Losing Referring Physicians to Competing Hospitals

Recruiting physicians who will send their patients to your hospital is ongoing, but recruitment can be made easier if your hospital incorporates state-of-the-art healthcare solutions that benefit the referring physician.

As a hospital administrator, you may already have a base of physicians who refer patients, but how do you attract more and how do you keep the ones you have from sending their patients across town to your competition instead?  

Have you considered how much revenue you may be missing out on each time you lose a referral to a competitor?

Part of the interaction between hospitals and physicians are referral orders, physician orders, and other supporting criteria. These critical documents impact both the revenue cycle and patient care. The physician order typically kicks off the revenue cycle process, affects all pre-encounter activities, and drives final reimbursement. Ensuring you have a secure physician order management system in place to receive and process those orders should be a core part of your physician-friendly process.

The system you choose will need to be secure, user-friendly on both ends of the process, and capable of accepting many different types of information delivery. While we now have access to email, texts, scanning, and many other forms of communication technology, many older physicians still use secure faxing or fax servers to send referral orders. The best system will act as a data gateway for any type of information source.

Other physicians may be tied into a PMS/EMR like eClinicalWorks or an online delivery system. They might even prefer to call in their orders. Either way, you need to be able to receive referral orders and communicate efficiently—and you need a system that will make it easy for both your hospital and the referring physician.

HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system is a great example of technology that can ease the interaction between referring physicians and hospitals. The program can be integrated with a variety of other systems and offers secure faxing as well as the ability to intercept traditional, email, and even text and phone orders. The system is designed to be versatile and extremely user-friendly, allowing your physicians to easily submit their orders in nearly any way they choose.

While a program like ActiveXCHANGE would go a long way toward smoothing physician-hospital interactions, the issue of retaining and recruiting referring physicians is admittedly complicated. Below are some recommendations that might help your hospital recruit and retain referring physicians more easily, with fewer losses over time.

  1. Create an easy work environment with the right technology to make patient and physician interactions easy and effective.

  2. Institute an ongoing communications program to ensure regular and consistent communication between the hospital and referring physicians—and make sure the right person is in charge.

  3. Commit to a timely appointment process. Referring physicians hate to have their patients’ care delayed due to financial clearance issues that could have been completed before the patient arrived. Employ healthcare solutions that ensure insurance verification, pre-authorizations, and price estimation tasks are completed prior to arrival.

  4. Communicate regularly with referring physicians about their patients. Let them know when the patient has been scheduled, that you appreciate the referral, and that you will continue to communicate about what follows. Always make sure they feel in control of their patients’ care and keep them informed with regular progress reports.

  5. Understand the competition and build a real relationship. Your clinical competence is not enough to make you stand out as the only option. Other qualified professionals will be competing for the physician’s business. Make sure your hospital is the most appealing.

  6. Build a relationship founded upon trust. While it’s good if the physician likes you on a personal level, that opinion is not as important as the physician’s feelings about your staff and facility in terms of trust and capability.

  7. Maximize your physicians’ time with more efficient internal processes. HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system is an example of technology that can be implemented to increase internal efficiency and allow physicians to focus more of their time on patients instead of administrative tasks.

The primary secret of building and retaining your referral base is focusing on relationship building and technology that makes referral order management easier. Professionals are more likely to have confidence in your hospital and send their patients your way if a strong relationship is in place. Start there, and the rest will follow.

Take a moment to review the interaction processes, policies, and channels between your hospital and referring physicians. A few small changes might make a huge difference towards the satisfaction of your physicians in their work—and with it, the overall quality of the work they do. Improving the quality of care is a goal every hospital can get behind and it all starts with the physician order.