Leverage a Physician Referral Service to Capture Revenue

March 10, 2022

3 ways eConsults reduce cost for patients and support improving patient satisfaction image

More and more practices seek a physician referral service to improve the referral process and capture more revenue. A study of 105 million referrals by the Archives of Internal Medicine found that only about half of referrals resulted in a visit to a specialist. As a result, roughly 50% of the time, patients fail to receive the care they need, and specialists do not capture the most revenue.

There are several reasons the patient referral and follow-up process is complex. Determining which specialists work with a patient’s insurance and considering patient preferences around location and availability is a manual, time-consuming process for most practices. One study showed that less than 50% of adult inpatient care remained within a health system, leading to network leakage, while another study found one-third of patients are lost. While some leakage is expected due to a lack of clinical specialties, location, patient preference, capacity restrictions or network availability, most network leakage can be avoided using an online referral system.

The revenue impact of a poorly managed referral system can be quite significant. In a 2015 survey of 140 hospital CFOs by the American Physical Therapy Association, 51% said they focused on leakage as an opportunity to generate revenue. For physician networks, the revenue impact is equally noteworthy. For example, according to The Annals of Internal Medicine and The Advisory Board, a 500-physician network can miss nearly $100 million in annual revenue due to leakage. Primary care providers may send $50 million in referral-related revenue outside the system; another $40 million of referrals go unscheduled.

Physician referral service technology to improve the referral process and capture more revenue.

Web-based physician referral services increased scheduling by nearly three times and reduced the median time-to-appointment by more than 50%.

However, much of this revenue can be captured using a cloud-based physician referral service offering physician-to-physician​ virtual consultations. One study of more than 50,000 referrals at an urban health system with over 1.2 million annual patient visits found that a web-based referral system tripled referral scheduling and reduced the median time to appointment by more than 50%.

Nearly 80% of the health organization’s physicians felt ready for online scheduling, and 75% said the system made scheduling easier. Considering that about 10% of patient visits to a PCP result in a referral, and more than 50% of new patients for specialists come directly from physician referrals each year, this increase in patient/referral follow-through presents a significant opportunity for practices and healthcare systems to capture more revenue.

AristaMD’s physician referral service streamlines the referral process for patients, specialists, and their referral partners. By automating the specialist referral process, practices can expect an increase in referral volume and revenue.

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