A practice, no matter how many people it helps or the quality of its service, is a business. As clinicians, we sometimes leave matters like maximizing profits, generating demand, and increasing access by the wayside, but success ultimately depends on our ability to balance these considerations with the quality of our care. We could start by considering how we get our customers. Referrals are the lifeblood of collaborative medicine. If properly used, they can increase quality of care and make your practice thrive. These problems often hamper their effectiveness.
1. Outdated Systems
Collaborative medicine requires quick communication. Many practices’ referral systems boil down to long spreadsheets cluttered with old information. This poses several issues. First, without a digital interface, data entry becomes tedious for clinicians and patients alike, decreasing the chance that the form is ever completed. Antiquated systems also lack real-time data monitoring. Rather than sending automated requests for information, they tend to require patients to self-report changes in address and status. By switching to a modern CRM, clinicians can make their patient management more efficient, acquiring more high-quality referrals.
2. Short-Term Focus
Your referral program should be a high-ranking, long-term priority. In collaborative medicine, it’s all too common to prepare a sweeping referral program, sending out blast emails to patients, handing out flyers, and designing incentives simply to drop it three months later. To keep your initiative long-term, make sure it doesn’t interfere with your existing operations or expend too many resources. Design and implement regular pushes for referrals, assess the success of each, and cater your approach based on your findings.
3. Poor Referral Templates
Good referrals start with good templates. One Canadian survey found that 51% of GP-specialist referrals had an unclear reason for referral. Avoiding such problems is a matter of asking the right questions clearly. You might create a variety of different forms for different types of referrals — this allows you to put more specific information on each.
Metro Collaborative® is an East Coast-based group of clinicians from alternative and mainstream practices. They aim to promote collaborative medicine by creating valuable referral relationships at every level of care. Call them at (212) 777-8949 or visit their website to RSVP for one of their events, where clinicians come together to discuss important medical issues.