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At some point, we’ve all likely been referred to a provider other than our PCP. In the best case, it’s a great experience: they call within 24 hours, you schedule an appointment and you’re on your way. But we all know, unfortunately, that’s not always the reality. 

The reality is as many as 50 percent of patient referrals are never completed. Ineffective referral management and referral leakage is not only detrimental to a provider’s bottom line but often leaves patients at risk of not receiving the necessary care they need.

Healthcare leaders deem referrals a significant priority but difficult to manage

Despite 61 percent of providers whose top priority is to improve in-network referrals, less than half believe they have the necessary data to understand their referrals. More often than not, operational challenges also remain in terms of managing the referral process effectively, leading to a poor experience and patient referral leakage. These may include:

  • Delayed outreach: overburdened staff – who may be manually calling patients – can delay outreach, leading to patient frustration and leakage. 
  • Inbound delays: patients calling in may be leaving voicemails or experiencing endless phone tag, encouraging them to give up and potentially look elsewhere for care.  
  • Overwhelming preparation: before the patient’s appointment, staff may be dumping an overwhelming amount of information on the patient – to which they only understand a portion of due to stress or lack of understanding; they may show up and can’t complete their appointment due to a missed action, resulting in an unnecessary unused slot and revenue loss.  

What is referral leakage?

Referral leakage occurs when individuals opt for out-of-network healthcare providers instead of staying within a hospital’s network. This can result from various factors such as ineffective patient retention efforts, a lack of – or delay in – communication, lack of physician expertise and more. Hospitals that effectively manage and minimize referral leakage not only enhance patient retention but also improve revenue. 

According to a 2021 report1, 65% of health system leaders say patient leakage blocks them from reaching their financial goals. In fact, the average hospital loses 10-30 percent of its revenue to patient referral leakage, resulting in roughly $200 to $500 million in losses per year. 

If any of those operational challenges sound familiar to you as a provider or as a patient, you’re not alone. While tackling the referral process may seem daunting, there are several best practices to help remedy the situation and minimize referral leakage. 

  1. Timely patient engagement: automation and technology can help with timely communication.
  2. Real-time response: engage your patients when they’re available and close the scheduling loop faster.  
  3. Automate Pre-Visit Communication: reduce the opportunity for error and send patients information digitally – this also saves your staff significant phone time. 

Implementing these practices – among others – is likely to help your organization reduce patient referral leakage, improve patient retention and loyalty and boost your bottom line. In fact, health system executives estimate they could boost revenue by 17% just by reducing referral leakage.1

Enhance your referral process with Artera

Again, we know that timely patient engagement is one of the biggest drivers to securing a referral into an appointment slot. In fact, the ability to schedule appointments quickly plays a significant factor in closing the referral loop, improving patient outcomes and generating revenue. 

For every 24 hours that you add between the time of scheduling the appointment and the appointment happening, you add roughly a 4% increase in the likely no-show or cancellation rate of that patient.

Oliver Kharraz, CEO of Zocdoc

With Artera Referrals, health systems can provide timely patient engagement with automated, omnichannel referral outreach, helping to convert more patients and generate additional revenue. It enables providers to personalize and customize outreach from the provider’s known phone number – increasing response rates, engagement and bookings – and streamlines internal operations by reducing manual work. 

Artera’s Referral Premium workflow also offers new features such as added customization and throttling, which helps to ensure automated messages are sent out at a specified cadence throughout the day, aligning with the provider’s call center or support staff work hours, encouraging real-time responses and eliminating high call volumes all at once. 

Additionally, providers can leverage new Conversation Builder templates, uniquely designed to cover referral best practices. These can not only be deployed quickly to get the health system’s referrals up and running but they can also be modified or customized based on individual processes. 

If data and analytics are your top priority, the new Referrals Performance Report will be invaluable to you, providing rich details on what the referral conversion metrics look like – broken down by specialty – including what the reach and acceptance metrics look like. Based on the conversion rate, an estimated revenue generated by referrals is also provided, helping organizations understand the real ROI in terms of completed referrals. 

After implementing referrals in its imaging department, one enterprise provider (Artera customer) saw an average 35% conversion rate, leading to roughly $1.9M in additional generated revenue in just 60 days. 

Let’s review how Artera’s Premium Workflow for Referrals can help your organization: 

  • Simplify Provider and Patient Experience: Providers can personalize patient communication to share information about the referral (from a familiar phone number in their preferred language and communication channel). Staff see a single view of all conversations in the staff console, and can easily access information from the patient Facesheet, making it easy for them to address patient queries.
  • Improve efficiency, engagement and conversions: Automating referral queues and eliminating manual calls in Artera Harmony significantly enhances outreach efficiency while minimizing errors, reducing staff workload and minimizing referral leakage. Through the Referral Automation add-on, Artera seamlessly gets information from EHR systems, initiating referral workflows automatically. Configurable options for routing, triggering and filtering and referral throttling ensure that the right patients receive the communication at the right time, boosting engagement and conversions for referrals. 
  • Increase Patient loyalty and uncover insights: Providers can build custom, unified, multistep personalized conversations with Conversation Builder that enable them to share necessary information and run surveys such as identifying reasons for referral non-scheduling. Providers can also leverage ecosystem partners‘ capabilities and content to provide a holistic experience to the patients, increasing patient loyalty. Analytics reports provide program visibility, performance insights, and actionable pattern identification for program optimization. 

Ready to close the loop on more referrals? 

We know the struggle to manage referrals efficiently continues to be a widespread issue, and many organizations still don’t believe they have the right technology to move the needle on referrals. What’s more, a staggering 50 percent of providers are not confident they have the tools to address patient leakage, which takes a huge hit on their financial goals. 

The health systems that are addressing referrals and patient leakage effectively are experiencing significant financial ROI in terms of additional revenue and reduced losses. In fact, survey participants in the 2021 ABOUT report1 who measured ROI from preventing leakage found that for every dollar they spend to improve retention, they receive $31.36 in return on average – or up to $500 per dollar by one leader’s estimate. One of the top attributions to this is in optimizing their referral outreach. 

Artera’s Referral Premium Workflow, an enhanced product that’s designed to transform your patient referral outreach, is a game-changer for providers looking to unlock new efficiency, reduce referral leakage and boost their bottom line. 

Are you ready to enhance your referral process with us? 

Learn more about our Referrals Premium Workflow, here or check out our Referrals Video

1 Patient leakage & keepage report 2021-22: Insights. ABOUT. (2022 March 3). 

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