Being adept at physician referral management and patient referral management can grow your medical practice tremendously. We have covered this in our medical practice marketing guide as well.
Whether you manage physician referrals manually or use some healthcare referral management software or solution – you do need to have a plan for this.
This guide is intended to help physician leaders, practice managers and referral coordinators.
Physician Referral Management – the people you need on your team
Read this section first as that will help you understand the game of marketing your medical practice to referring partners around your practice locations.
Next, read this section on how to create a list of target referring partners.
Understand the people needed to a create a high performing referrals team:
- The physician appointment setting team (if you one onsite or whether you use a centralized healthcare call center to do the job).
- The physician liaisons that meet with referring partners (if you have liaisons , here are a few tips on how to help them).
- The centralized healthcare call center team or front desk staff that take inbound calls. Read more about why we think investing in a centralized healthcare call center returns tremendous benefits.
- Front desk staff that checks patients in (with or without digital patient intake software).
- Your outsourced medical data entry team or the techs you have at each location.
- Your providers or medical scribes (remote scribes or on site) that finalize the visit notes for each patient encounter.
These are the people that are involved in creating a high performant medical referrals team that truly contributes to practice growth in every step they take.
We would highly recommend that you use some kind of physician referral software or referral management solution. However, please note that you really do need to have this solution tie in with your EMR and also your physician relationship management tool.
Physician Referral Management – the processes you need in your medical practice
Next, look at the entire process involved in closing the loop with physician referrals:
- The physician appointment setting team calls and sets up appointments for your physician liaisons. They use some kind of spreadsheet or physician relationship management tool or some physician referral management software for their job.
- The physician liaisons that meet with referring partners also should be operating using the same spreadsheet or referral management software or CRM/physician relationship management tool. This way, once they visit the target referring partner, they can update the database to make sure that the operations team is aware of their contact with the target.
- The centralized healthcare call center team or front desk staff that take inbound calls should be aware of all inbound calls coming in for appointment requests.
- As you are well aware, appointment requests come in directly from referring partner/referring provider offices for their patients.
- The inbound call center team or front desk also gets calls from patients whose providers have asked to call your providers – have given them a referral.
- The centralized call center team or your front desk also gets faxes with appointment requests (referrals).
- Some of you might already be using P2P (jointhenetwork.com) or some other 3rd party referral management software (e.g. referwell, par8o, werq.com etc) and you can get faxes or emails from these software with physician referrals. Your inbound appointment request handling team (in most cases, our inbound call center team handles these) needs to be aware of the targeted referring partners, the referring provider targets that your physician liaisons have made contact with, the referred patients and should be able to connect the dots between these.
- Your front desk staff that checks patients in (with or without digital patient intake software) should be aware of this as well. First impressions matter a lot and if the patient from a new referring physician does not get the best attention, you are risking losing this new referring partner relationship forever. Your front desk needs to ensure that they capture the patient demographics and the primary care physician PLUS the referring physician information. This is crucial – we have found that many times, a referring partner starts sending referrals but the front desk does not capture this information, so the visit notes are never sent to the referring physician. This sours the relationship further and the referrals stop coming in. THIS PART IS CRUCIAL.
- Your front desk should be operating on the same spreadsheet or the same medical referral management software that the physician liaison / appointment setting team / inbound call center team uses. These folks need to be kept in synch as well because they are the ones managing the referring physician relationship.
- As soon as you get a new referral for a patient from a target referring partner, your physician liaisons need to know so they reach out to them to thank them. Your appointment setting team needs to know so that they stop their cold calls/ faxes / emails etc to try and set up an appointment. Your inbound team should notify each interested party as soon as such a patient appointment request is identified.
- Many a time, your front desk will miss out on capturing the patient’s primary care or referring physician information as well. You have one more chance of getting that corrected – Your outsourced medical data entry team or the techs you have at each location can also try to get this information from your patient. Once the patient has left your practice, it is a LOT harder to get this information, so please make sure that you work as a team to collect this data.
- Next up is where your providers or medical scribes (remote scribes or on site) finalize the visit notes for each patient encounter. As soon as the visit note is finalized (hopefully you follow best practices for medical billing and finalize visit notes within a day), your physician liaison needs to know this. They are on the hook for this “new account” and referring provider satisfaction. Your frontdesk or medical data team that sends out visit note updates needs to know to be “on top” of this as well.
- We even advise physician liaisons to not only ensure that the patient visit notes are sent via fax, but they also carry the “letters” to the referring physician office to “seal the relationship”.
Physician Referral Management – the technologies you need to succeed
If you are using a medical referral management tool, this task becomes much easier to handle. However, please do keep in mind that your referring partners will all be using various tools and processes of their own – there’s no way for you to force them to use your referral management software, nor will you be able to convert all your referring partners to moving away from faxes.
What you need is an approach that lets you interoperate with your referring providers while at the same time helps you consolidate your team, tasks, communications all into one place.
Here are a few things you are going to need to succeed:
- A database to list all your target referring partners. These would, in all probability, be a list of all providers and specialties that play well with your practice. E.g. for an ophthalmology group that we work with, this comprises primary care physicians, optometrists, federally qualified health centers (multi specialties) and since this eye care group has a large diabetic population – specialties like Pharmacy, Podiatry, Optometry, and Dentistry can form a solid team (and source for referrals)
- This database should have NLPF (name, location, phone number and fax as well)
- A route mapper and route planning app for field sales representatives so that physician liaisons can spend more time meeting people rather than updating their daily notes, adding contacts discovered, doctors discovered at the locations they visit, optimize and plan their routes.
- This field sales rep (physician liaisons) tool should allow users to set reminders for themselves to revisit accounts on a regular basis or to return to an account as advised by the target referring partner office.
- A database of all daily patient appointment requests where the referring physicians are identified and the primary care physicians are identified. This tool should alert the physician liaisons and the liaison support team (appointment setters) about each referral received from an existing or a target referring partner.
- This database should contain appointment requests received via fax, email, phone calls, 3rd party referral software, website etc.
- A digital patient intake software tool or at least a way for front desk to correctly identify the referring physician name/address if the other team members have failed to identify the same in patient demographics.
- A database of all patients whose visit notes are finalized and are ready to be sent to the referring partner or have already been sent over to the referring partner office.
- A tool that allows the whole team to see the trends of referral volumes sent from the referring partners. This tool should alert the team when the referral volume goes down week over week or spikes up week over week.
- A tool to escalate issues raised by referral partner offices or to escalate requests for more referral pads etc.
- This physician referral management software should also allow your team to set important dates (birthdays, secular holidays etc) to send Thank you notes.
How to increase patient acquisition with referral
Initially, it seems daunting just because the publicly available provider data is pretty incorrect. On top of it, this requires coordination with front desk, call center, healthcare techs, providers – pretty much everyone in the office.
However, if you follow our recommendations step by step, you will see that it takes very little effort to actually be proficient at this game.
Step 1 – how to create your target referring physician database
- Read this section in the complete medical practice marketing guide to create your initial database.
- We have found payer provider directories to be the most reliable.
- If you do not use a healthcare physician referral solution or a physician CRM (customer relationship management) tool – at a minimum, use a spreadsheet.
This spreadsheet should have these columns
- Agent – example AFTAB
- Last Contact – example 11/12/2019
- Outcome – example CONNECTED
- Remarks – example Spoke to Lisa. She is the one that sends referrals. She will send
- Next step – example Reminder on 1/12/2020 – call back
- First Name – Carlos
- Last Name – Ortiz
- Gender – M
- Specialty – Primary Care Provider (PCP)
- Phone – 7189398440
- Fax – 7189395378
- Address – 14242 41st Ave
- City – Flushing
- State – NY
- Zip Code – 11355
- Use this spreadsheet (or better yet, a referral management tool) to call / fax / email consistently and update this database. Sales is a game of numbers and a game of being consistent.
- STAY STRONG
Step 2 – conducting referring physician outreach
- Do not depend on a single channel. The outreach channels you have at your disposal are FAX, EMAIL, PHONE CALLS, IN PERSON VISITS, POSTAL MAIL/LETTERS
- To market via fax, all you have to do is to create a simple one-sheeter marketing material (hopefully your office already has one). If you have a web based fax sending system – even better. That makes live VERY easy. If you do not have one, just open an account with one of the many efax sending providers like freepbx.org or mfax.io or efax.com etc.
- We recommend sending exactly 2 faxes per month to advertise yourselves.
- If you prefer to mail (it does get expensive) postcards, use the same one sheeter marketing material you have and mail it via post. You can use sites like uprinting.com, usps bulk mail option as well.
- We recommend sending 1 postcard per month (not twice a month) as this is a slightly more expensive option.
- Regardless of sending faxes and postal mail, you need to be calling these offices. We generally recommend making exactly 2 calls per month on a schedule. Keep in mind that all you have to do is to send the faxes each day to your daily list, then make those calls. This way, people can connect your call to the received fax.
- We also recommend making in person visits to each of these offices. The way you optimize your office visits is to have your appointment setting team call ahead and set up appointments for your physician liaisons (most expensive option). When your team does set up appointments, make sure that they cluster the appointments so that they are close to each other (office locations). Without this, your physician liaisons spend most of their day driving around rather than in meetings.
- If you do not have an appointment setting team, you can follow the pattern of visiting offices after sending faxes in the mornings. Let’s say that you are committing to sending 50 faxes per day. If you are using a web based fax sending tool (as mentioned above).. This takes a maximum of 1 hour. After this, you can hit the road and visit the practices that you sent faxes to. This allows the staff at these offices to connect the fax with your face and your brand.
- No matter what route you take, do remember to update that spreadsheet or your physician relationship management tool (or even the referral management software, if it comes bundled with physician database) with the last contacted date, outcome, remarks and follow up reminders (if any)
Step 3 – how to improve your target referring physician contacts database
This is a very interesting part – you need to keep building your database of contacts. For every office you speak to or visit, you need to add/contribute to your database of contacts. Keep in mind that when you create your database for the first time, you will only have provider information.
As soon as you start your outreach, you are going to come in contact with the actual staff members that would be responsible for sending you referrals.
You need to add the names, direct phone numbers, fax numbers / extensions to your database. Slowly, over weeks, you will find that your physician database starts growing with relevant contacts for each practice (account).
Make sure that you don’t create a separate spreadsheet of notepad entry for the added contacts. This is where things fall off the planet – data entry that is outside the database. Most practices that we work with, fail here.. In the ability and the rigor of keeping data consolidated, for it to make sense and add value.
Always, always, add data to the same database that you are working off of.
Step 4 – how to monitor incoming referrals from your target referring physicians
This part is crucial. What we have seen happening in various practices is that the marketing team puts in a lot of efforts towards generating referring partner relationships; however, when the actual referral does come in, the front desk/appointment setting staff does not notify the marketing team about this successful event.
DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.
Work closely with your inbound call center or your frontdesk and make sure that you know exactly which referring physician sent a patient.
You will notice that your front desk is not very diligent about collecting referring physician information. By having the marketing team sit on their heads asking for the referring physician information for each patient appointment, you have a side benefit of getting your front desk regimented as well.
Fundamentally, what you need is to be notified each time a new patient referred by your target referring physician books an appointment with you. Until a regular rhythm of sending patient visit notes, ensuring that your referring partner is happy, the relationship solidified etc are established, your physician liaisons need to be on high alert.
If your front desk cannot share this information with you on a regular basis, your team can handle this as well. At the end of each day, export a list of appointments created that day. Depending on your EMR, you will see the referring physician information in this daily exported file. Take note of the referring physician for each patient and add to the weekly referral count for each referring partner… be it in your spreadsheet or your physician referral management tool.
This referral count per week per referring partner (target or established relationship) is crucial for you to understand the value of each referring partner relationship, to understand whether the referrals are going up/down, allows you to be in tight sync with your referring physician staff.
Step 5 – how to capture patients as possible referrals from your target referring physicians
As you know, your referring physicians are not always going to send patients to you. Since Stark Law prevents referring physicians from any financial benefits – your providers are not *forced* to send referrals or to follow up on those referrals (yes, we understand that they will refer to you or someone else for patient care, but they are not going to spend a whole lot of time ensuring that the patient shows up).
You will notice that many times you get patients that say that no one referred them, BUT their primary care physician is one of the accounts you are targeting.
Use this to your advantage. Always monitor each patient appointment for their primary care physician and also their referring physician.
If you have patients with no referring physician, then look for the primary physician information. Once you get this PCP name/information, you can then open the door with them by sending them a visit note proactively.
The best way to do this is to fax them the patient visit notes, then visit them to open the relationship further. Do this for the first few times to ensure that your referring physician understands your commitment to closing the referral loop (even though they really did not send you a referral). After a few times of doing this proactively, you will notice that their office starts sending your practice referrals proactively.
Step 6 – how to close the referral loop with your target referring physician and really impress them
This is the only way to ensure solidifying your relationship with a referring partner is to close the referral loop with them.
You might not know why getting the visit note is important for each referring partner office. Sure, each provider wants to take care of their patients and want to know the care plan and receive the transition of care document.
However, understand the following a bit further and you will know why closing the loop is so important.
- Each provider gets paid by payers.
- Each payer gets paid by members (i.e. people like you and me).
- Members get insurance from (mostly) their employers.
- Employers choose insurance plans available to their employees based on price (quoted by the insurance plans) and also based on HEDIS ratings – Employers and individuals use HEDIS to measure the quality of health plans. (see link of NCQA)
- For Medicare/Medicaid, people use STAR Ratings (As an FYI, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) uses a five‐star quality rating system to measure Medicare beneficiaries’ experience with their health plans and the health care system. This rating system applies to all Medicare Advantage (MA) lines of business: Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). It also applies to Medicare Advantage plans that cover both health services and prescription drugs (MA‐PD).)
- So, based on how NCQA rates plans (see this document), point #2 is for clinical measures “Rates for Clinical Measures: The proportion of eligible members who received preventive services (prevention measures) and the proportion of eligible members who received recommended care for certain conditions (treatment measures).“.
- How do plans prove it? By proving that members got those services. How is that proven? By documenting visit notes and closing the referral loop.
- So, plans expect PCPs to refer patients out for preventive and treatment measures. PCPs are expected to prove to plans that they did send those patients out by providing visit notes. Specialists need to provide PCPs these visit notes – that’s where you have the power to help your PCPs do better with their plans. This helps the PCPs help their plans do better with NCQA. That gets them higher ratings, which in turn helps the plans be chosen by more employers.. It’s a cycle.
Once you understand this, you need to ensure that:
- You keep your referring partner office in the loop about patient no-shows.
- After the patient is treated, you need to send the visit notes to referring partners within 24-48 hours.
This alone will keep you on top of mind with ALL your referring providers. Most provider offices are really bad about getting these done, so the bar is REALLY low.
Take care of this aspect and your referring partners will reward you with all referrals.
Step 7 – how to keep competitors away from referring physician partner account base
- Download a list of all referrals received last week from your spreadsheet or your referral management tool.
- Sort this list by referring partner name so you know that you’re calling a partner only once a week
- Note the total referrals they sent the week before last week. You’re going to need this Info to determine whether they’re sending lesser referrals over weeks.
- Call referring partners, speak to the front desk and ask for the person that sent the referral. If you’re connected with them immediately, talk to the person. Thank them for the referrals last week, ask them if there’s anything that they want your operations team to do, capture the feedback in the spreadsheet notes section.
- If there’s a drop in weekly referrals, ask them if they’re happy with your service or not.
- If there are any issues they report, add that info on the notes section because you’ll have to send an email to operations team to fix that issue
- Tell them that you’re going to send them a fax after the call with their patient reports/status. After the call, send them via fax using the fax website URL (mfax.io or efax or whatever you are using). To send a fax, you just filter the referrals spreadsheet for the practice you’re talking to, export as PDF and send the fax via freepbx (or whatever efax tool you use, or even regular fax machines).
- If you can manage them to agree to set up a recurring weekly meeting with you for 15 mins, do it. This is important, makes your job easier and the relationship gets stronger.
- If you’re asked to call back, ask for the name of referral person, number/extension – enter it in spreadsheet notes section, add a reminder to call back at date/time in spreadsheet and your google calendar
- At the end of the day, add all new people you discovered into your referring partner database / spreadsheet / software for each practice (staff and doctors).
- If you miss connecting with a practice one week, it’s OK. Make sure you connect with the practice next week by adding these missed practices to next week’s call sheet
If you understand the people, processes, technologies needed to run a successful physician referral management program, follow the steps listed above – you will be in great shape.
Using a physician referral management software makes this very easy to handle – there are several moving parts and needs tight collaboration between various team members. We highly recommend using a referral management software that comes bundled in with physician relationship management (CRM) tools. We prefer this over using a referral management tool that is stand-alone and that has no connection with your EMR and your provider CRM. Each one of these connections is critical to run a high performing referral marketing team.
Physician Referral Management Software – Features To Look For
- HIPAA security
- Authorization and roles
- Users and Teams
- Practice Details
- Practice Contacts
- Route planning and route optimization
- Reminders / Tasks
- Calling capabilities
- Faxing capabilities
- Emailing capabilities
- Postcard mailing capabilities
- Territories / accounts distributions
- Contact center integration
- Patient intake integration
- EMR integration
- Saved searches / filters (insurance, speciality, zip codes etc)
- Task queues
- Task assignments
If you are creating only a database of doctors, practices, the insurances they accept – then you do not really need HIPAA security per se. You can use ANY of the 100s of CRMs out there in the market.
However, in healthcare, you need to cannot deal with only provider, practice and insurance data. You need to have some patient data as well.
You will notice that your team does have to answer patient related queries – e.g. Hey, patient name xxxx yyyy DOB xx/yy/zzzz – can I get an appt please? Can I have the note please .. etc
You can very easily have a standalone provider CRM that’s non HIPAA compliant and when you need to address any patient related queries, you switch to another application, find the patient, their consult note etc and respond back.
However, this is where the headaches begin – data is not tied together, there’s no way to trace the patient pathway from outside to within your practice
This is where traditional CRMs break down – they are not integrated with your EMR or EPM, not integrated with your contact center software, not integrated with patient intake software etc.. and you need them all to work together.
Make sure that whatever physician referral management solution you choose, it has HIPAA security as top of mind. Make sure that PHI is protected and the vendor is willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA).
You are obviously going to need authentication. That’s a standard across all web or mobile applications these days.
However, you are going to need to take a few extra steps here that might help you with HIPAA security a bit more.
Your employees will, in all probability, be working from your offices or remotely.
If they work from your offices, you can lock down PHI even further by disallowing access to the website or mobile apps outside of office hours (e.g. 9 AM to 6 PM EST).
If they work remotely but work from an outsourced office, you can follow the same timing steps and disallow access to the website / mobile app outside of those working hours.
The biggest challenge with PHI and HIPAA is that your staff might download or leak the patient data. This is the biggest protection you need.
Your employees or contractors might access your website from public wifi zones or access it from home where you cannot control the internet connectivity security levels.
This is why you need to be able to whitelist IP addresses where your website or mobile app can access data from.
Yes, it does present a huge overhead of IT maintenance, however it is better to be safe than sorry and have to deal with HIPAA related fines.
If you are not fully aware of HIPAA and how to manage your practice around it, please read this blog about how to be HIPAA compliant.
Authorization and roles
There are a couple of reasons why we stress on authorization and roles.
As you noticed, the various kinds of staff that need to access your healthcare referral solution are:
- Call center agents
- Front desk staff
- Physician liaisons or field sales representatives
- Healthcare techs
- Medical data entry team
- Call center managers / team leads
- Sales managers / team leads
- Data analysts
It is very easy to create or use a healthcare referral management application that has all the bells and whistles.
Most software that we see does exactly that.
What ends up happening is that users (healthcare staff) get overwhelmed by the amount of data and the number of choices.
Having this much data and this much volume hurts more than it helps.
Limit the amount of data shown to each role of user.
As you can tell, each role needs a limited amount of information to get their job done. Sure, when they need to dig deeper into any patient or provider or account, they should be allowed to do that – but the default, day to day view should be very limited.
Users and Teams
You are going to need the ability to define teams. Typically, what we have seen is that the appointment setting team needs to work on a volume basis (i.e high number of calls, faxes, emails etc) while the physician liaisons work on a lower volume of records.
The ability to create teams becomes very important when you want to assign a group of patients, providers, accounts (practices) to a team of individuals – to further limit overwhelming them.
This way, you can create a team with inside sales reps (i.e. appointment setting team) that handles 1,000 practices. This team can generate appointments and pass on the accounts to the physician liaison team only after they have made contact with the practice staff. This way, each team can be laser focused on their own tasks.
You are going to need the ability to store all practice information.
Even if you have followed our step by step process of collecting practice information, you are going to have a hard time figuring out which practice is the “parent” company, which ones are the branch locations etc.
This is where you need to understand the NPI database well enough. The NPI database (from CMS) will tell you whether an organization NPI is a sub part or the parent company.
You are going to need to store
- Hierarchy of companies (this, in most CRMs are parent company – child company relationships). As you know, there are many practices and locations – you would need to maintain the hierarchy of the same.
- You need to maintain specialty – there’s nothing worse than going in for a pitch and getting the specialty wrong. On the flip side, if you can figure out a pitch that’s laser focused on how your practice can help that specialty – you will win this game. E.g for diabetic care, you need to know the ophthalmologists, podiatrists in your neighborhood as they often co-manage this pathology.
- You need to maintain the insurances accepted – this is a pretty neat trick to market yourselves to practices that accept the same insurance plans that you do. This way, patients can easily be referred to your location without having to worry about insurance related barriers.
You can do this one of 2 ways.
- Separate providers from non-clinical staff and have two kinds of contacts OR
- Consider everyone working at a practice as practice contacts
For each provider, make sure you store the NPI number as well because that will tell you the provider’s specialty.
On top of this, if you can get the NPI information, you can very easily figure out the number of Medicare/Medicaid patients they handle, the number of surgeries/procedures they do each year etc (the CMS data only – not private insurance data unless you pay hefty amounts to purchase this data)
For practice staff, make sure that you capture their roles well. Note that each practice staff usually handles multiple functions at their practice and wears multiple hats. You should be able to assign multiple roles to each contact you discover at these practices.
Do note that unlike in other CRMs, your providers CAN and DO actually work at multiple locations. SO you need the ability to do so.
Same goes for many staff as well – part time in healthcare is rampant, so your CRM needs to be able to handle that.
When a doctor or a non-clinical staff logs into their account, they should be able to see only one practice’s data at a time. They should not be able to mix and match data between various practices / providers/patients etc.
This is going to be pretty important to manage the relationship with your referring providers.
Plus, if your software is truly integrated with your EMR and contact center software, you are going to get all the patient information in here (this is also why PHI and HIPAA secure software is going to be so important).
Do keep in mind that the same patient might be going to multiple providers – both your referring providers/partners or your target referring partners.
So, much like providers and staff could work at multiple practices, each patient might also be going to be multiple practices and their data will show up at multiple places.
Territories / accounts distributions
You (or your sales manager) needs to be able to create territories and distribute accounts within that territory to specific team members.
As an example, you could have a team of 5 field sales reps handling NYC. Each rep could have their territory consist of a borough – e.g. Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens etc.
Meanwhile, the appointment setting team could have all of NYC as their territory.
Sometimes, reps might share a region/zone based on how large a zone / area is – you might have situations wherein two reps have overlap of zones. Instead of being in a situation where the efforts are duplicated by the physician liaisons going to the same accounts on different days, it is better to separate territories entirely.
Saved searches / filters (insurance, speciality, zip codes etc)
This, in our mind, is the most important capability that your physician referrals software should allow you.
As you can guess, your team is going to:
- Segregate their accounts on some factor – e.g. insurance or zip code or specialty
- Slice and dice the provider data to create outreach lists or account management (existing referring partner) list
- Each day, as more and more providers are added to your database system, your team would not want to repeat their steps. They would expect more and more data to be added to their saved searches.
- Each day, as they get in touch with more and more offices, they would expect that their lists also get automatically updated.
Your software should allow them do be able to do this – to go into their
Route planning and route optimization
As you know or probably realize, field sales is a different ball game altogether. This requires spending a lot of time on the road, finding parking, double parking (at times), teaming up with another field sales rep that sits in the car while the other person visits the office, waiting at doctors’ offices to be seen in between patient appointments.
Oh, it’s fun alright 🙂
As a sales manager, you want to pay for results – not for your reps driving around nor for looking for parking.
This is where your healthcare software should allow your physician liaisons to be able to plan their day, plan the route they are going to take, the practices they are going to visit.
Your software needs to show all the practice locations on a map. Preferably, your software should allow your physician liaisons to create / view and manage their entire day’s route (which location are they starting from, where they are going to next, what route to take etc). Google maps makes it quite easy to do route optimizations and your software should allow that to happen as well.
Most people in sales/business development will tell you that they hate spending time on data entry work after a sales call or a sales meeting.
They focus so much of their energy on the meetings, calls, emails, faxes that your software should not force them to have to spend time in data entry work just to be able to report to their managers.
Your software should allow users to be able to send emails, send faxes, make calls, log visits at various practice locations – all part of their daily activities.. Directly from your software. When they do perform these activities, your referrals software should automatically log this information instead of forcing them to enter all data manually.
As a manager, you can very easily view all the activities of your team, guide them better, manage and plan their future activities as well.
Your staff would (and should) take copious notes in each account/provider/contact record within your application.
This becomes very important as healthcare staff seem to share very important information about doctors’ schedules , type of patients they see, whether they have specific equipment in the office, whether they accept certain plans or not etc.
Your team needs to save this information – these are very important to further dig into the account. As always, you will find that patient records will need the ability to add notes as well (e.g. patient said …. Or staff mentioned that this patient… ) .. specifically about items that do not belong in the EMR.
Follow up and follow through are the biggest challenges that we have seen in healthcare (not just in marketing, but also in clinical operations).
Who’s to blame them when the volume of activities is so high?
Physician liaisons are always out in the field, going from door to door. More often than not, the doctor is not available to meet with them. Invariably, they are asked to come back on specific dates/times to meet with the doctor.
Appointment setting team faces the same challenge. True, every practice does tend to pick up the phone – however, based on that day’s patient volume and issues, they are asked to call back to speak with specific staff / people etc.
Reminders are critical for follow up and follow through activities – we have found this to be the primary reason for things falling through the cracks.
Almost each time that your staff interacts with another practice (target referring provider), they are going to have tasks assigned to someone else in the practice.
There are several challenges that we see coming up. E.g.
- Add a new contact to the physician database / CRM
- Add new provider that was discovered during outreach
- Referring provider office complained about something – ask the medical staff to follow up with them
- Referring provider office wants referral pads delivered – ask the office procurement staff (or the admin) to order and deliver referral pads
- Referring provider wants the patient’s visit notes – ask the techs/providers to follow up and send the notes.
- While on call, the referring partner sent a referral – create that patient appointment and referral in the EMR
- Referring provider office wants a copy of your marketing material or your new service offering – ask the admin to create one and send it along.
- So on and so forth..
Your software needs the ability for people to create tasks for themselves, set reminders and at the same time, be able to create tasks and reminders for others as well.
We have found that if a software allows users to create task queues, it helps immensely.
Most good sales people prepare for their upcoming week, then execute on their plan for the week – day in/day out, week in / week out… without emotions.
Allow your staff to be able to define task queues once and be able to execute on that queue until it is finished out. Their workflow could very well be a task queue like this:
- Create a filter of practices they want to target (e.g. Bronx, primary care physicians)
- Start the day with running the task that just prompts them to make the calls, add notes/contacts/providers during the call
- Create or use an optimized route for these accounts
- Go visit these accounts while checking in at each place, taking notes etc.
- Go to the next step in the task queue
- Keep working until the day is over
- Next day, they don’t go around hunting for who to target, what to do next – they simply continue with the task queue .. rinse, repeat, until done.
If you want to maximize the productivity of your staff you need click to call and automated dialing capabilities.
Typically, a team member’s daily activities include
- Starting with the list targeted for the day
- Looking at the contact phone number to dial
- Dialing the number, being on hold or disposing the call as a wrong number or leaving a voicemail (or not)
- Writing down this activity in the CRM after the call is over (after call work)
Instead of doing this, if your referral management software also allows click to call capabilities – life becomes a lot easier. PLUS, you also have call recording for future training purposes. Your team’s workflow could very easily be:
- Hit “GO” on the list for the day
- The software dials the numbers one after the other
- The software designates a wrong number, voicemail
- The software records the call for audit and training purposes
- Team member writes down notes from the call and creates next steps/follow up date (instead of recording an activity, writing call notes etc)
Be careful and try not to dial more than 200 numbers per day as nowadays, phone companies have started updating their databases with numbers that make more than 200 outbound calls per day, marking them as SPAM LIKELY. You don’t want to fall in that bucket – regardless of whether you are spamming or not.
It is in your best interest (if you are going to be doing automated dialing) to purchase multiple numbers (you can buy them as cheap as $1 per month from twilio.com, Telnyx, Nexmo etc). Also, invest in a caller id reputation management system (e.g. calleridreputation.com) – this truly does allow you to monitor if your outbound phone numbers are being marked as SPAM or not.
If you have automated faxing capabilities in your software – that’s going to save you a LOT of time and increase your productivity multi-fold.
Faxing usually costs per page, so if your marketing collateral can be reduced down to a one-sheeter, you’re going to fare even better with automated faxing.
In general, faxing is truly a time consuming activity – especially if you are using a regular fax machine. On top of this, it really doesn’t help you track your activities, manage your contact history unless you manually enter all this data in your CRM.
We haven’t had the best luck in emailing – because we noticed that email addresses are not that readily available. That’s also because many providers do not even have a website.
CMS did start releasing email addresses and websites of provider offices (see NPI downloadable database) – Endpoint Reference File – this file contains all Endpoints associated with Type 1 and Type 2 NPIs.
However, this has just started and is really a small list. Since most of the email addresses that you do gather are ones where patients email to make an appointment, you are guaranteed that your message will be seen by someone – however, whether that will be acted upon or not is a different story.
Much like with faxing and calling – if you can automate sending out 50-100 emails per day, that would be the most beneficial.
Your software should take care of signing emails – SPF and DKIM records. This is a little bit of a convoluted process, but with the right IT help, you can get this done.
Take care to NOT send out more than 200 emails out per day – typically, internet service providers frown upon such bulk emails and start marking them as SPAM (potentially). If you are customizing your emails, you would do better with landing in the inbox rather than being in the SPAM folder.
The best thing about email is that it is “almost free”.
Postcard mailing capabilities
Not many software really do have postcard mailing capabilities and it is not a hard-set requirement per se.
It is beneficial to be able to mail out postcards with your marketing information in batches – e.g. 100 a day, over days/weeks.. To be repeated once a month… However, most online mailing services only allow bulk mailings (at reasonable costs).
If you can have this in your system – that’s great but it’s not a “must-have”
Your team is going to have to handle marketing materials, postcard designs, patient visit notes, send faxes with multiple visit notes based on conversations with accounts / practices.
Your medical referrals software should allow for attachments and if possible, tracking whether receivers of those attachments are looking at the attachment or not.
Contact center integration
Generally, your front desk or contact center (e.g. a centralized healthcare call center) is not colocated in your office. They are handling patient calls, inbound referring partner calls, pharmacy calls etc.
Each update these teams are making to patient records do not have to be forwarded to you. However, your marketing team should know whenever a new appointment request enters their workflow with a referring provider or primary care provider that they are targeting.
This helps in judging the efficacy of your marketing team.
If your contact center already uses some software to make their calls, you can simply leverage that software to tend to your calls as well (e.g. Twilio, AWS Connect etc).
Patient intake / EMR integration
This becomes important because patients do not always give their PCP or referring provider information at the beginning, when they make appointments.
However, when they come into the practice for their visit, they have more time to think through who their primary care provider is, what their contact information is and also tend to bring their referral with them.
If your front desk staff is diligent about capturing this information, and has a lot of bandwidth to check in each patient manually, then you do not need a digital patient intake software. Nor do you need to be integrated with that software.
However, in more cases than not, we have noticed that the front desk simply scans the referral, the patient consent for (for email communication), the referring provider information within the EMR.
Scanning and attaching to the EMR literally kills your scaling efforts. Now, this data resides in the EMR as a PDF scan (i.e. image) and cannot easily be converted into readable data.
This hurts your marketing.
Your marketing team should ask for a digital patient intake software that would ensure that patients provide information during their visit – and this information is captured in the EMR (in particular – PCP and referring provider information).
The minute a patient or front desk staff creates or updates a patient record or an appointment record with referring provider information, this should be cascaded to the marketing team.
Hopefully this complete guide helps you grow your medical practice by leveraging a marketing team powered by a physician referral and physician relationship management solution. Reach out if you have any questions or if you need any help with this.