After analyzing and discussing our referral data with our primary care and specialist physicians, we determined that there were three key issues with our referral system that were driving our patients to seek specialty care elsewhere. These issues were: (1) a complex, and non-standard referral process, (2) the inability to schedule appointments in a timely manner, and (3) poor communication regarding the reason for referral.
Realizing that we needed to engage physicians in any attempt to improve our referral process for our patients, we implemented an electronic referral management system that was integrated into our electronic medical record. The technology that we implemented enabled us to track and monitor progress and ensure accountability.
Results to date
We have developed three key performance metrics that we track monthly: (1) access (the percentage of patient appointments that are scheduled within the timeframe specified by the sending provider), (2) timely patient contact (the percentage of patients who are contacted within 24 hours of the receipt of their referral in the specialty office), and (3) timely resolution of referral (the percentage of referrals that are resolved within eight business days). Currently, we are meeting our goals in the timely patient contact and timely resolution of referral, and we continue to improve our performance in access. Following the implementation of our referral management effort, we have seen improving primary care physician satisfaction, increasing numbers of referrals through the electronic platform, and better collaboration between primary care and specialist physicians.