Many healthcare organizations are dependent on their external referring providers to deliver a steady stream of new patients. External referring providers can have a tremendous impact on generating revenue – however, these providers have specific expectations that may not be realistic for the receiving organization. They often call an access center to request that a certain specialist be paged at that moment in order to have a discussion about a potential or current patient. Often times, the requested providers are in the ambulatory setting, inpatient setting, the operating room or post call; and cannot break away from their patient care duties to have a discussion with the referring providers.
What can the access center do to manage the needs of the referring providers?
Access centers are the first line of contact to bridge the communication between the referring providers and a specialist’s office. Upon receipt of the call, the agents must determine if the provider is available and their preferred medium of communication. In an ideal scenario, the agent would receive a call from the referring provider and would warm transfer to the awaiting specialist. While the aforementioned scenario is ideal, is not always feasible due to the multitude of duties that the physician must complete on a daily basis to care for their patients.
Coordinating communication between healthcare providers can be very similar to coordinating a patient appointment. The agent must assess the availability of the specialist by attempting to warm transfer the call. If the specialist is unavailable, his or her office must make an effort to coordinate an appointment to communicate; this resembles squeezing a patient onto the schedule. Call center technology can program an outbound call once a time has been agreed upon to facilitate the communication between the external referring provider and the specialist.
Communication between the external provider and the specialist within the healthcare facility is paramount in order to ensure that both the patient and the referring provider are satisfied with the care plan. The communication about the outcome of the visit with the specialist is equally important. A proper and comprehensive transfer of care needs to occur to propagate the continuum of care and to enable the original provider to effectively manage his or her patient.
Tracking of external referring providers is also important. A client relationship management system should be used to track all incoming inquiries and requests from external referring providers. All transactions should be logged to ensure that the external referring provider and the patient’s needs were met. A timing component should be examined and a target time should be assigned to ensure that accountability exists and that transactions are completed in a timely manner.
Lastly this data can be mined through the reporting platform of the client relationship management system. Healthcare organizations need to assess the long term and short term referral patterns from the current network. Healthcare organizations can ensure that they retain current referring providers within the referral network and explore untapped market share. This data will enable a representative or a liaison to begin cultivating relationships to service providers and offer them access to renowned subspecialists and educational forums.
These relationships between physicians are essential to the growth of and sustainability of a healthcare organization’s wellbeing.