Understand the critical role of the “farmer” or “referral coordinator”.
Imagine yourself in a referral coordinator’s role.
What do you need to be successful?
- To be a true partner with your physician liaisons / hunters – you need to know which accounts they are hunting and who you are aligned with, to support them in their efforts
- To monitor all incoming channels of referrals (referral websites, faxes, emails, phone calls)
- Always accept referrals from multiple channels (whatever your referring partner prefers) but always report back on one single channel (fax or website is usually easiest to do). Do not force the referring partner to change how they send referrals, but dictate how you report back to them
- To be in sync with your appointment scheduling team (inbound or front desk) to ensure that they capture referring physician information for each patient appointment
- To be able to call patients for whom the referring physician information is not captured and ensure that you at least capture their PCP information – this will truly help your team grow the referring partner base. Trust me on this one – even if the PCP did not send you the patient, if you get back to them with the appointment visit notes, you establish a (potentially) new referral partner. This at least gives you a reason to get in touch with the provider
- To know the referring providers of each practice – to keep an eye out for any new patients referred. You need to be on high alert for this information. Keep in mind that when the inbound team / appointment scheduling team schedules a new patient, they might only get the referring provider information. You need to be able to figure out which practice this patient was sent from. Sometimes, you will find that the same provider is practicing at multiple different practices – in those cases, you would need to call the patient to find out which practice location the patient typically visits. Or, alternatively, call each such listed practice location asking about the patient – one of them will confirm that they are the custodians of that patient 🙂
- Call the referring partner upon receiving the first few referrals to cement the referral relationship. Keep them up to date on the patient appointments, no-shows or cancellations. Make sure the referring partner office hears your practice name and your name a few times. Give them your email / contact info (direct line, not the practice main phone number), your direct fax number if possible. All these little things really do end up making a big difference.
- Collaborate with your practice management team or the IT team to get a list of all referrals received in the last week and the status of each referred patient appointment. Ask your team for a spreadsheet with this information.
- On a weekly basis, call the referring provider office to “tally up referrals sent vs received vs patient appointment information”. For the first few weeks, resist the push back from the referring practice to “just fax over this information”. It takes only 10-12 mins to get this done per practice. Get into the habit of doing so. Each day, you should be able to cover 25-30 practices. Make it a habit to call at the same date/time each week so that the referring practice staff get used to hearing from you.
- As the relationship is cemented, you can even be friendly enough to pick up the phone and ask the referring partner why you haven’t received any referrals in the past week.. Whether they are happy with your practice, if they need you to do something else.
- Always keep your hunter/physician liaison team up to date on each referring partner account details.. They need details on partner satisfaction, referrals received per week, if referral volume went up or down etc.
- As you advance your relationship with the referring partner, start transitioning them to a fax based weekly update – with the same spreadsheet format that you have been sharing with them on a weekly basis. This way you can focus on the newer referral relationships that your physician liaison team has hunted down
- Send thank you notes to your referring practices during holidays and other notable days each year. You can do this more effectively if you establish a good rapport with the stakeholders on their side.. Get to know them better and get to know their birthdates / special life events.
- ALWAYS, always try to understand (probe) if the referring partner is sending referrals only to you (loyal) or whether they are a splitter (sends to multiple specialists). Try to understand why that’s the case. You might find out that several of their patients are from a certain neighborhood where you don’t have offices. You might find out that several of their patients are not in the age group that you typically treat. Always bubble up these information to your manager
- Always keep an eye out for and probe for referring partner satisfaction.. Always ask what their referred patients said about your provider and your practice. Incorporate these notes in your weekly reports to your management.
- Feel free to add your own twists to what you do and how you feel it works better for you and your practice
Over time, if you don’t see the referral volume increasing from any particular referring partner, it is time to have a meeting with the 2 practices – preferably involving physicians and key practice management staff on both sides.