March 31, 2020

Tim Coughlin
SystemCare Health

Don't Let Physician Referral Streams Dry Up During COVID-19 Crisis

Health systems are preparing for the surge of COVID-19 patients and resources undoubtedly will be stretched thin. Stuck in the middle of this chaos are non-elective surgeries that are still happening every day in operating rooms across the country. These surgeries are saving lives and keeping health systems financially afloat.

While referrals continue to flow into specialists for urgent patients, the referral process is most certainly modified for those surgeries deemed elective.

Now is a good time for physician liaison teams to plan, analyze, and set strategy for all stages of the referral process. Analyzing data to understand who is and who is not referring in the market allows liaisons to set strategic priorities and target the practices with the most opportunity. This ensures a thoughtful approach to relationship building and strengthening referral streams amidst uncertain times.

Phone calls, video conferences, or direct mail are appropriate to clearly communicate important messages when face-to-face visits are not an option. These touch points reinforce the message that the health system is a trusted partner to care for their patient regardless of the current environment.

For upcoming elective referrals, it is important to make clear that the health system will work with providers to ensure access during the rush for rescheduled appointments. In some cases, telehealth appointments may be available in place of an office visit and can be communicated as an option for the referring physician. Referring providers must feel that they are a priority when things get back to normal.

We all know that high-margin surgeries are the engine that drives a profitable health system. In the face of severe uncertainty, it is important that referring providers continue to be nurtured to position the organization well when the COVID-19 crisis ends.

Be well. Be safe.

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