Strengthening The Physician-Therapist Partnership With Automation And Data

Physician Referral Management

Physical therapists have acquired more autonomy than ever before but physicians continue to play a significant role. The plan of care for Medicare beneficiaries requires a physician sign off. Also, limitations on direct access persist in several states.

Furthermore, several studies have concluded that sending patients to physical therapy early lowers the cost of care and improves clinical outcomes.

All in all, physician referrals are going to be around for a while. Building robust relationships with physicians can only help. After all who doesnt need more patient referrals?

Need for a Physician Referral Management System

The next step would be to add more structure and transparency to the physician referral management process, from initial referral to conversion to patient.

At a high level, the steps would boil down to:

  • The referred patient arrives in the clinic.
  • Gets evaluated and becomes a patient.
  • Resulting in a patient conversion.

What would help is a an industry-standard physician referral management system for documenting, monitoring, and managing the process of building relationships between physicians, therapists, and patients. Managing this data any other way — through excel sheets, for example — could only result in disconnected silos and inefficiencies.

There are two priorities:

  • Institute the process to increase the number of patient referrals and the conversion rate.
  • Automate the process to raise speed, efficiency, and accuracy based on a single source of truth.

First, the process definition

Without the right process, you are unlikely to get the right results. At a high level, this is what it would look like:

Increase the Number of Referrals

The first item to check off would be getting more referrals. We could break this down into the following steps:

  • Track field rep activities as they work to build and strengthen your physician relationships.
  • Monitor relationships with referring providers by comparing the actual number of referrals received with the target number of referrals that you had set.
  • Prioritize the list of providers that field reps should focus on. Develop a strategy to reengage with providers and monitor its execution.
  • Document field rep meetings with providers with a formal, manageable, and searchable format for provider encounter notes to make them quickly actionable.
  • Keep providers informed about their patients progress with a patient report card that details diagnosis information and progress using outcomes data.

Raise the Rate of Conversion to Patients

Next would be to get more referrals to convert to patients:

  • Prioritize referrals for follow up based on recency of their activities with less recent activities getting higher priority.
  • Convert referrals to patients. The patient coordinator could help by proactively reaching out to the referral.
  • Schedule the appointment. Send a notification to the referring provider updating them of the successful scheduling.
  • Verify insurances and confirm that the patient is authorized for treatment and has not exhausted their benefits.

Next, the automation

There are several areas where automation could intervene across the referral to patient stages. The result would be seamless workflows with all data in one place, a single source of truth:

  • Record sales and marketing activities, enter call logs, verify insurance benefits, fax referral confirmations, and measure performance.
  • Establish reminders for verifying the referrals benefits based on how soon their evaluation appointment is scheduled for.
  • Measure performance of field reps (number of referrals generated) and patient/benefit coordinators (number of referrals scheduled) with analytics that drills down into the underlying records.
  • Prioritize relationships for additional follow-up to ensure that the number of referrals and the conversion rate remain optimal.

Last but not least, the analytics

After, all there is no perfect process. It would need monitoring and tuning to get the results that you are seeking:

  • Keep a tab on the number of incoming referrals and the conversion rate to stay on track and avoid any surprises.
  • Identify the root cause of changes, if any, in these metrics. This could be a decrease or even an increase in referrals count. If something is working well, you might want to know what that is to replicate it and reward the people who are responsible.

Building and sustaining solid physician relationships would clearly add immense value to your practice. By sharing data, communicating frequently, and staying on top of referral stats, you would be able to maintain a steady stream of referrals and conversions.

The goal is to use automation and data to conclusively demonstrate that you deeply care about the patients health and outcomes and become a true partner with the physician in managing the plan of care.