Efficient revenue cycle management by an experienced medical billing company can help physician practices boost their bottom line. However, practitioners should know that the success of their practice also depends to a great extent on building referrals, which in turn, means building good relationships with both patients and physicians. Specifically, physicians and other health care providers are the most important sources of acquiring new patients. Practitioners need to strengthen and maintain their referral relationships for the long-term. Here are some tips to build and reinforce your relationships with referral providers to ensure strong patient inflow and sustain your practice’s revenue stream.
- Create and implement a proper plan: A medical marketing expert can help you create a plan to establish a referral network. It’s important that you strive to go by the plan. Set realistic goals and don’t expect immediate results as building a network takes time. Don’t discard your referral-building program before it shows results. Fix a timeline for achieving your goals.
- Use the best strategy for your practice: You should know your target audience to determine the best strategy for building patient volume. For instance, consumer-friendly tactics would work best for growing a primary care practice, while target outreach to radiologists, site-disease specialists and other physician referrers would be needed for an oncology practice, says Daniel Weinbach, principal of health care marketing firm The Weinbach Group in a Business News Daily article.
- Implement technology to share information: Choose an efficient electronic health record (EHR) system for your practice. EHRs allow information to be shared across networks which will improve efficiency, care and patient outcomes. Today’s cloud-based solutions allow the physicians to receive referrals electronically. By eliminating paperwork and minimizing risk of manual errors, EHRs streamline the referral process for both the primary referral and the provider.
- Meet referring physicians: If you are a specialist, make a brief the office of the referring physician. Introduce yourself and let them know how you can help their patients. The face-to-face encounter will help build the relationship with referring physicians and their staff. An article in Physicians Practice recommends using marketing collateral such as a small card or simple, professional, and useful items like a bottle of hand sanitizer with your name and number to stay on top of the mind.
Senior partners in a practice can introduce referring physicians to new associates via a written announcement. Business News Daily cites Wayne Lipton, managing partner at Concierge Choice Physicians as saying, “Interacting with the referring physician’s staff is a way to impact the number of referrals. Ultimately, it comes down to performance – timely appointments, appropriate communication and top-level services.”
- Make yourself known: Become a member of local medical societies, professional societies, chambers of commerce, and other associations to get your name out there. Build contacts that will optimize referrals. Even non-physicians such as dentists could be referral points. Learning about each other’s expertise and building trust will promote reciprocity.
- Inform the referring office about the payer panels you are in: Clearly communicate to the referring provider’s office about the insurances you take. This is important for the referring physician to know the patients they can refer to you. If they are not aware of the payer panels you are in, it’s likely that they will hesitate to refer patients to you.
- Acknowledge all referrals and establish ongoing lines of communication: All referrals should be acknowledged promptly. Let the referring physician know what steps you will take to address the patient’s condition. Keep the lines of communication open and provide your referrals with information requested for their own purpose.
- Provide feedback to the primary referral: Send informative, concise and timely reports back to the physician who referred the patient to you. Primary referrals value such feedback and it is likely to promote sustained referrals. Send the valuable electronic reports in the format that the referral prefers.
- Provide quality health care: This is the most important aspect of building strong referrals. See that every patient gets quality health care. The Institute of Medicine defines quality health care by the following attributes:
- Safety – patients should not be harmed by the care that is intended to help them
- Patient-centered care – care based on individual needs
- Timely – reduced waits and delays in care
- Effective – evidence-based care
- Efficient – minimal waste
- Equitable – care should be equal for all people
Treat your patients with respect. Take time to answer their questions, explain the medical problem and treatment protocol clearly, and follow up after their visit. These actions will show your patients and referring physicians you care. Make sure that your staff is attentive to patient needs. Provide customer care training for receptionists, office managers, nurses and physicians.
With the transition to value-based care, one of the greatest challenges for independent medical practices will be to demonstrate quality to ensure sustained financial returns and build a growing population referral base. As physician focus on implementing strategies to build their referral network, outsourcing medical billing can ensure accurate claim submission and optimal reimbursement.