Imagine your favorite football team is in a real neck-to-neck with another team, and the game could tip in anyone’s favor. It is the last minute, and in an insane turn of events, the quarterback throws the ball in the air, hoping the player in the end zone could make a touchdown. Instead, the reckless throw results in confusion, the guy in the end zone gets tackled, and the game ends in disappointment.
Now, let’s step out of football and look at these statistics that show a little picture of referrals in healthcare:
Only about 50% of referrals result in a completed appointment
Less than 25% of referrals are completed as intended by the referring provider
In case one, the player didn’t score a touchdown, and in the second case, the patient didn’t end up with the right provider and the treatment. The reason being the process— a reckless throw and an inefficient referral procedure.
Most healthcare organizations lose about 30% to 60% of patients on account of inefficient referrals. Value-based care is expected to become the leading payment model by the year 2020, and healthcare organizations cannot afford losing more than half of their revenues due to reduced referral leakages.
How do you know that your referral management needs healing?
Imagine a situation where a patient, in his early 60s, suddenly suffers from severe abdominal pain. He goes to his doctor, and the doctor directs him to a specialist she knew out of her professional knowledge.
Now the situation can unfold in many ways, where the patient might end up getting treated or the exact opposite of it. In all the scenarios, the part where things might go wrong is the process of referring the patient. The problems that these stakeholders might face include:
The inability to identify in-network providers
Lack of proper patient information
Limited access to information flow among providers
Reliance on age-old techniques of fax-based referrals
… and many more.
Now the question is: ‘What is the solution?’
It all boils down to just one thing— having the right data. Imagine you visit your doctor. The moment you tell him your problem, he looks into his screen to look for the right specialist. In just one click, he gets all the correct specialists in a listicle format. And all he has to do for the rest of the story is just click on the ‘Refer’ button.
Seems undoable? Actually, all we need is a data-driven strategy.
Don’t just plan your data but also your approach
It is never about just knowing the patients but understanding them, their health, their socio-economic condition, and their care journeys. All of this is not possible if we do not have access to the right data. Whether it be a lab test or spiking blood pressure— nothing should be left undetected.
Easier it is for providers to understand, efficient will be the referral
You cannot expect the rest of the process to be perfect if the beginning is imperfect. If the provider is stuck finding the information, not only will this delay the referral but also increase the chances of errors. What they need is a single screen view of specialists in a list that includes every detail such as geography, specialist ranking, availability, and fees, among others.
Connecting communities and care teams to deliver the best care
It is crucial that care teams and communities remain aware of the events happening in the patients’ care journeys. They need a streamlined tracking of patient referrals at the clinical or patient level. It will reduce the turnaround time for escalations.
The patient lost in the process is the revenue lost
The right referral strategy includes two significant aspects:
Increasing the visibility into the process to the patient
Using advanced analytics tools to develop a lens into the referral process
What they need is a simple reminder that enlists all the details regarding the visit and gives timely updates to them regarding the specialist and the appointment date. Organizations can increase patients’ access to telehealth services by allowing plans to propose the use of telehealth services instead of promoting in-person visits.
Guest post by Andy Ridinger, director of client experience, MyHealthDirect.
Despite much of the uncertainty facing the future of the health care industry, the shift to value-based care is not going to go away. Regardless of what new laws may decide, organizations need care coordination tools now more than ever to be successful. Doctors and hospital officials continue to cite care coordination as a key advantage in accountable care models, which seek to more tightly integrate providers and maintain joint financial incentives that deliver better-quality and lower-cost services.
In the United States, more than a third of patients are referred to a specialist each year, and specialist visits constitute more than half of outpatient visits. Referrals are the crucial link between primary and specialty care. Yet despite this frequency, the referral process itself has been a great frustration for many years. The transformation to value-based healthcare is well underway with a shift away from the quantity of patients to the achievement of better health outcomes.
The current state of the specialty-referral process in the U.S. provides substantial opportunities for improvement, as there are breakdowns and inefficiencies throughout. These are inevitable when the process hinges on a patient following through on a slip of paper. It is no wonder that of the one third of patients that receive referrals, 20 percent never follow through to schedule a visit. Of the referrals that are completed, a host of other challenges often result. Sometimes it is just a disconnect of information between the two providers but can be an incorrect provider altogether. The final outcome is poor for everyone involved; patient, referrer, and target provider alike.
To improve the referral process and care coordination, here are four strategies to facilitate greater convenience in care coordination initiatives:
Make it digital
Just by enabling online booking, referral lead times (time between a PCP and specialist office visit) decrease by up to 36 percent, and show rates improve by 20 percent. Additionally, on the spot booking to a specialist reduces patient leakage for health systems. It can guarantee that care is rendered by the best-suited physicians within your preferred network.
Make it best-fit
The most effective appointment maximizes show rates and minimizes lead times. A provider must select the preferred physician with the earliest availability at a time the patient is likely to show up. Optimized scheduling can yield up to a five times increase in referral completion rates.
Make it measurable
The best way to improve referral completion rates and reduce lead times is to capture the relevant data points in a timely manner so that you can track changes over time. Presenting the data in an easily consumable and actionable format is equally critical.
Connect the docs
To know if patients complete visits, it is critical that all parties share the right information and facilitate two-way communication in real time. A primary care physician making a referral is far better equipped to manage a patient’s health if she receives show status and notes back from the specialist visit as soon as that information is entered into the specialist’s electronic health record.
There is an industry-wide surge in providers, payers and post-acute care providers whose needs for transitions-in-care are unmet by their current healthcare IT capabilities. As such, 2016 will likely be the year that referral management comes to the forefront for all stakeholders in the healthcare system.
The moment of referral is an opportune time to engage with patients: with the increase in high-deductible plans and out-of-pocket expenses, patients are extremely motivated to seek care from high-quality, cost-effective, in-network providers. Providing patients with the resources they need, while enabling providers to align their efforts, is a mission-critical need in healthcare today.
There are a few key factors driving improvements in referral management for providers, payers, and post-acute care providers alike:
With the move to fee-for-value reimbursement, we are seeing a rise in the number of physicians moving to independent physician associations, ACOs, and clinically integrated networks. This is happening for two reasons: first, to negotiate more effectively with payers and second, to equip themselves to take on risk in the future. In order to take on risk effectively, healthcare organizations will need to ensure that patients stay within their systems. In addition, these groups of physicians often have multiple EMRs and are looking for solutions to expand them. Therefore, we have seen an increase in all kinds of provider groups looking for intelligent decision support that guide referrals in a systematic and strategic fashion.
With the increase in high deductible, narrow network plans, there is a greater need to direct patients to high-quality, low-cost providers. Payers, in partnership with providers, are looking for the ability to navigate patients in this way. Given the cost of specialist visits, payers are also particularly interested in making sure patients get to the most appropriate specialist to receive the care they need.
For example, Carefirst BCBS has pioneered a program, through their PCMH plan, to provide information on specialist costs and quality to inform referrals. They see this as a way to improve quality while, over time, bending the cost curve. This could be the beginning of a broader trend among payers, to acknowledge the importance of referrals and encourage the use of tools designed to implement insightful decision support and a standardized process around transitions-of-care.
For post-acute care providers
As providers have consolidated, so has the post-acute care space. Readmission penalties and bundled payments have further put pressure on post-acute care to ensure a seamless transition from acute care to – and within – different post-acute services.