Summary: For dental organizations, referral management has become an increasingly important part of managing the patient experience and coordinating careUnfortunately, incoming referrals are often lost due a lack of effective workflow processesThe good news is that dental organizations can effectively control and manage inbound referrals. Here are four ways.

It’s estimated that patient referrals account for nearly two-thirds of most dental organizations’ new patients. However, for many dental organizations, when an outside party refers a patient to their dental organization, the process is often manual. In other words, they rely on incoming phone calls, voice mails, faxes, unsecure email or postal services as vehicles to accept inbound referrals. Once received, processing these referrals is often lengthy and time-consuming for clinic staff. Unable to wait, patients may seek elsewhere to find another dental provider to administer the care they immediately need.

If this sounds like your dental organization, then you’re not alone.

Patient referral management – the obstacles 

Referrals are an integral part of managing an episode of care and ensuring high-quality outcomes for patients. However, without a formal strategy, dental organizations can face several obstacles when faced with managing their inbound referrals.

  • Outside sources are often required to resort to outdated, manual, paper-based methods – such as phone, fax or post – to submit patient referrals. Hand-written notes on pieces of paper are too easily lost in a busy dental clinic. This may cause them to hesitate on sending the referral your way, if they perceive your business practices to be old and archaic.
  • Referral workflow processes are often poorly documented, misunderstood or ignored by staff. Employees may not be given the tools or best practices to effectively manage incoming referrals. If available, the typical methods for processing dental patient referrals can be messy and incomplete, further slowing down the process. Patient referrals can easily slip through the cracks when processes are slow.
  • Even with today’s environment of electronic health records, smart phones, electronic messaging and cloud-based software programs, many dental organizations still use outdated technologies to process their referrals. However, every patient deserves to be a part of their referral case in real-time. Dated technology should never be at the ‘root’ of unfavorable outcomes for a dental patient (no pun intended!).
  • Missed appointments or no-shows are all too common in referral patients. Simply put – patients do not follow-up. It’s estimated that only two out of every three patients eventually receive the care that they need when a referral is made.

How to build an effective referral management process 

Breathe new life into your workflow processes and control your ability to accept and manage incoming patient referrals. By doing so, you can help your dental organization improve and optimize patient care and satisfaction. Here are four ways to do it.

1. Expedite Referral Processing

Drastically shorten the processing time, by enabling outside sources to submit patient referrals to you 24/7 via an online web form. This not only reduces their work load, but yours as well. In addition, you can allow your clinic staff to receive secure notifications, when online referrals arrive from outside parties. This allows them to act on the referral quickly and streamlines the flow of patient information between the referring provider and your organization.

2. Improve Document Management

Allow your staff to efficiently manage and track patient referrals in the electronic health record (EHR), eliminating manual paperwork. This reduces the need for manual document storage and efficiently organizes and tracks forms. In addition, it offers an extra layer of security, unlike paper-based systems where documents can easily be misplaced.

3. Reduce Effort, Save Time

By accepting patient data via online web forms, you can reduce the effort your clinic staff spend on manual, time-consuming tasks such as phone calls, scanning, emailing, faxing and mailing paperwork. Ultimately, this can help increase staff productivity levels and reduce your organization’s operating costs.

4. Promote Patient Care 

Streamlining your referral management workflow processes provides a great first impression for referral sources and new patients. You’ll likely be at the top of their list for their next referral. It also helps safeguard your patients’ protected health information, by securely storing their sensitive data.

axiUm Inbound Referrals

Did you know that axiUm has an Inbound Referrals module that works with your existing axiUm system?

With the Inbound Referrals module, you can embed an axiUm web form in your institution’s website and allow third party physicians to refer clients to your institution. Calling, emailing, faxing and mailing are not required. Once received in axiUm, you can review the form and attach it to a patient’s EHR and manage the process from there. By allowing outside sources to access and submit an electronic form, the entire referral process is shortened drastically.

Watch our webinar where we discuss several ways dental organizations can more effectively manage their patient payments (with the axiUm Lockbox module) & manage their inbound patient referrals (with the axiUm Inbound Referrals module):

In Conclusion

Your dental organization can effectively control and manage inbound patient referrals, by breathing new life into your workflow processes.  Implementing a formal strategy that allows you to collect patient data electronically, customize the collection of that information, manage forms and documents and communicate with outside parties may help you to streamline your inbound patient referral process. Overall patients have a better experience and clinic staff can manage their time more effectively. That’s just better for business, whether you’re providing referrals or receiving them.

Request a Demo

Want to see axiUm Inbound Referrals in action? Request your demo today. 

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Author Corinna Bates

Marketing Specialist | Exan Software

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