The traditional patient referral process is broken. Its primary shortcomings - poor communication and follow-up - have far-reaching consequences.
Consider these stats: Only half of referrals result in a completed appointment, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine. The Journal of General Internal Medicine found that, while 70% of PCPs report sending information to specialists, only 32% of specialists receive clinical information before seeing the patient. An Archives of Internal Medicine study shows that PCPs report not receiving consult reports about 40% of the time; and when reports are sent, the Journal of General Internal Medicine adds, they arrive at least seven days after the patient visit in 64% of cases.
Given these statistics, it's not surprising that half of PCPs and specialists are dissatisfied with the information they receive:
Poor communication contributes to 30% of missed or delayed diagnoses
- Annals of Internal Medicine
Referrals managed electronically, reports the Journal of General Internal Medicine, are twice as likely to lead to better referral adherence. Web-based referral management optimizes patient satisfaction and care.
- Web-based referral applications enhance the effectiveness of the first visit while facilitating communication between PCPs and specialists. Referring providers can get feedback from reviewing physicians in as little as 72 hours, drastically reducing wait times to ensure that patients receive appropriate, timely services.
- Electronic referrals give specialists improved understanding of patients' needs before the initial visit. Similarly, PCPs can provide more comprehensive care before seeking consultation.
- E-referrals reduce the likelihood of physician oversights in case documentation. Providers typically see a large number of patients throughout the course of the day and have little time between appointments, which frequently leads to incomplete documentation. Web-based referral management allows specialist reviewers to quickly spot inconsistencies and request and receive additional information. Improved documentation equips physicians with the data they need to provide better care.
- Web-based referral management reduces lead time. Research reveals that 55% of specialist visits are unnecessary. Inefficiencies in the referral process account for some of these visits. Overutilization typically results in delays for people who really need to see a specialist. Correcting inefficiencies will not eliminate all unnecessary referrals, but it will allow those who need care to receive it sooner and enable providers to see more patients.
- Electronic referral management also allows you to track the status of ALL referrals and ensure that patients can see a specialist soon after visiting the PCP. The system notifies you when the referral-receiving provider schedules an appointment and actually sees the patient. Likewise, the system notifies providers when patients fail to schedule or show up for appointments, and physicians can follow up as needed. This process enhances transparency and completion rates to improve the continuum of care.
- Web-based systems facilitate referrals by enabling PCPs with decision support to view directories of specialists and select one based on insurance, proximity, quality, and availability.
Web-Based Referrals Encourage Patients to Engage
Patients can use electronic resources within a referral management system to contact providers regarding questions or concerns. This feature minimizes unnecessary visits and re-referrals, improving provider availability for other patients who need an in-person appointment.
Electronic referrals also enable providers and staff to spend less time on administrative tasks, so they have more time to engage with patients to meet additional Clinical Quality Measures (CQMs) and make their visits more meaningful.
Web-based referral management improves accountability and patient satisfaction while reducing costs, allowing providers to effectively close gaps in healthcare. Automating referrals and related processes enables practices to eliminate 70% of tedious administrative duties so they can focus on improving care delivery. Patients, in turn, are more likely to schedule and keep appointments when physicians are consistently available and receive accurate patient information to provide optimal care.