How to manage physician referrals to cut costs and improve satisfaction

Managing the physician referral process can help a hospital reduce emergency department wait times, cut costs, engage physicians and improve patient satisfaction.

During a webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Francisco Loya, MD, CEO of EmCare Hospital Medicine, and Mirza Baig, chief technology officer of EmCare Hospital Medicine outlined a few ways hospital executives can improve engagement with community physicians and enhance the referral process.

Mr. Baig focused on improving two main models of referrals: many-to-one, which has a hospital or facility as a central cog, and many-to-many, which is on the outpatient side and includes many physicians referring patients to one another.

In both the many-to-one and the many-to-many models, an unmanaged referral process can lead to poor continuity and delays in care, medical errors, costly redundant testing, wasted resources, lower patient satisfaction rates and lower rates of referrals and hospital admissions.

"Physicians will send patients to other care providers that they have confidence [in] and that they believe will take care of the patient and, if all of the aspects of confidence are not there, it will have an adverse effect on the rate of referrals," said Mr. Baig.

Frequently, poor communication is at the heart of any unmanaged referral process.

"The problem of poor communication also extends to what can be termed 'just-in-time' information," said Dr. Loya. "Some information is communicated at the point of transition, however, it may not be written down by the receiving physician due to a number of distractions the receiving physician may be experiencing during the handoff and may end up getting lost."

To improve the referral process, Mr. Baig and Dr. Loya suggested solutions for both models of referrals.

For many-to-many referrals, hospitals need solutions that will:

  • Enhance communication between physicians
  • Create a sense of "stickiness" in the overall referral network; and
  • Expand the referral footprint.

EmCare's Consult and Referral Management App, or CARMA, is one tool that may help improve the many-to-many referral process. The tool allows providers to construct a trusted network of providers, connect with other providers within and outside the network, collaborate with patients for continuity of care and communicate and share data securely.

For many-to-one referrals, hospitals need solutions that will:

  • Reduce ED wait times and overcrowding
  • Enhance patient satisfaction; and
  • Improve the quality and continuity of care

EmCare's Direct Admit System for Hospitals, or DASH, is a possible solution for many-to-one referrals in that it allows providers to access and enter patient information, communicate in real-time with other providers and track patients throughout the care process.

According to Dr. Loya, both tools allow multiple stakeholders in the care process to communicate simultaneously, which streamlines the admission process and improves patient flow and patient satisfaction.




To learn more, download the webinar presentation slides here. View the webinar by clicking here. We suggest you download the video to your computer before viewing to ensure better quality. If you have problems viewing the video, which is in Windows Media Video format, you can use a program like VLC media player, free for download here.

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