Driving physician referrals with healthcare information technology at Children’s Mercy

Hospitals invest a significant portion of their budget on technology, but not all think of using this asset to grow their business.

I'm seeing an increase in healthcare organizations emphasizing the importance of healthcare information technology to attract not only potential patients in the community, but also referring physicians. Referring physicians can send providers 10-20 patients each year – many who may be "frequent fliers" ‒ patients who use frequent medical services and often prove more valuable and loyal over time. Patients have faith in physicians and their recommendations or referral will carry some weight. Knowing that, what can hospitals do to ensure physicians are referring patients to their facility and services over others?

Leverage Technology to Drive New Business

The vast majority of healthcare executives, 93% to be exact, say technology helps improve both the quality and convenience of care. However, since the huge influx of funding and technology tied to Meaningful Use, many physicians have been vocal about the consequences of systems that are either poorly designed or implemented. This includes distracting them from patients, or taking too much time or too many clicks. In my career, I've seen firsthand how HIT directly benefits physicians and the way they practice. And, I've also seen how a good system or app can go viral among physicians when it saves them time or improves their experience of caring for patients. HIT can not only influence patient care, physician satisfaction, and financial outcomes, it can also be used to recruit and retain top talent who are attracted to the efficiencies it brings.

Here's an experience I wanted to share as I'm seeing it more and more: healthcare organizations leveraging and promoting technologies to build a strong referral base of physicians and drive more business. In my role as general manager of the diagnostic solutions of Nuance Healthcare, I see clients building and marketing their IT tools to other providers, to associations like the American College of Radiology and to patients. Here's one clever example:

Successful Networking in Missouri

In 2013, Children's Mercy Kansas City implemented Nuance's PowerShare Image Sharing to enable physicians to view, share and store patient's medical images quickly and reliably. As the only free-standing children's hospital between St. Louis and Denver, a cloud-based image exchange was crucial to ensuring efficient delivery of insight and care between its physicians and a large referring community. In this case, the hospital wanted physicians to be able to see medical images before a patient arrived and evaluate cases from afar to save patients and their families from long unnecessary trips to the hospital. With PowerShare, a cloud-based network, the hospital can do just that.
Children's Mercy realized image sharing could benefit thousands of others outside its current community of providers. So, it began leveraging its success with medical image sharing as a way to grow its referral base. In return, they attracted physicians who wanted to send their patients to the organization for a range of services because of the quality of care and speed of information sharing.

Here's a look at how the hospital used technology to grow their referral base:

Education: To start, Children's Mercy created a flyer about the benefits of cloud-based medical image sharing for physicians and patients. Then they communicated news of PowerShare Image Sharing to other healthcare organizations and events in the community.

Nurturing Relationships: Children's Mercy continued to nurture new relationships over time, and provided ongoing education on the benefits to different audiences, including significant reductions in CDs and unnecessary imaging to patients, and the value of physicians being able to evaluate images anywhere, anytime from any device.

Tech Innovations: In addition to educating potential referrers, Children's Mercy also shared ongoing updates on PowerShare's new and cutting-edge features. According to Shominica Mack, Image Service Center Manager at Children's Mercy, "By keeping our facility and the community in the know of how to leverage the technology, we built a strong reputation within our referring community." In fact, since Children's Mercy began showcasing image sharing technology, the hospital has increased its number of referring providers.

The next time your organization is deciding how to attract new physicians in order to grow referral communities - look no further than the HIT investments right in front of you. This investment could end up benefiting your facility in more ways than ever thought possible.

About Karen Holzberger:

Karen is a healthIT executive specializing in diagnostic solutions. She currently serves as the vice president and general manager for diagnostic solutions at Nuance Communications.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​

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