The Truth About Doctor to Doctor Referrals
According to research surveys done by Becker?s Healthcare, from 1999-2009, the rate at which physicians referred patients to other specialist doctors, nearly doubled. Doctors referred patients 4.8% of the time in 1999, but one decade later that number rose to 9.3%. So what is the reason for the increase in these doctor to doctor patient referrals? Surely they haven?t grown because of one single reason, but for several factors that drive or influence physicians? decisions.
The following factors were identified by practicing physicians as contributing factors to today?s increased referral rate.
Too few physicians, too little time
There?s already a shortage of primary care doctors in the US, meaning many are lacking the time & resources to carry entire case loads for patients, especially the ones with complex or chronic conditions. ?On one hand, PCPs are facing increased patient loads with many patients who have multiple chronic diseases that have become difficult to thoroughly manage in an average seven-minute office visit. Rather than decrease the quality of care in order to generate enough income to balance office expenses, these patients are referred to specialists who can devote more time to managing each specific problem,? says Dr. Zadeh.
The availability of primary care doctors won?t be improving anytime soon either. Healthcare reform is expected to worsen the current shortage from 25,000 physicians to 45,000 by 2020. Based on this factor alone we can expect that the rate of physician referrals will continue to grow as physician availability declines and 32 million more people gain insurance coverage under healthcare reform by 2019.
The fear of medical malpractice
Studies and surveys have revealed doctors? increased fear over malpractice. This concern is one of the strongest drivers behind many of defensive medicine decisions, such as ordering tests & making excessive referrals. One survey showed that 53% of emergency physicians ordered additional tests out of fear of being sued. As long as malpractice remains a concern for physicians, it will likely influence their referral patterns as well.
Keeping the patient happy
If there were incentives for the primary care dcotors not to refer patients to the specialists, things could have been terrible. It could force a doctor to treat patients with conditions that the doctor is not comfortable or properly trained in dealing with. That could cut some cost in the short term but long-term consequences could be devastating. Would you trust your doctor who benefits by restricting your access to specialists?
With the ever-increasing power of Internet and the ability for anyone to research about their symptoms and illnesses online, patients are more informed today than ever before. Health websites, physician online reviews and availability of free information have increased patients? role in their healthcare delivery.
And patient happiness means much more today than ever before. Under the new value-based purchasing program, a portion of hospital?s Medicare reimbursement will be tied to patient satisfaction scores as reported on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems survey. This financial imperative, along with the goal to have positive reviews on the Internet and social media sites, may propel physicians to refer to increase patient satisfaction.
At NOVA MedMarket we regularly remind our specialist doctors that their success relies on securing & cementing referral relationships with other complementary practices around them. This might sound easy and simple enough but when it comes to creating and nurturing these relationships, doctors often find themselves overwhelmed with their busy schedules. After all the primary focus of any doctor should be taking care of their patients first and foremost before anything else. Physicians know that there?s lots more to it than sending colleagues a gift basket at holidays. Here?s what we?ve learned.
Our clients tell us that they want the following from the physicians they refer to:
- Be someone they know.
- Treat their patients right.
- See the patients soon.
- Report back fast.
At NOVA MedMarket we have mastered the art of creating and nurturing these relationships. Our referral generation consultants have many years of experience in the healthcare industry and understand what it takes to establish the trust and the necessary care to make these relationships blossom and quickly move your name to the top of the referral lists of all the complementary practices that have the potential to refer patients to you. Essentially we become another member of your team that solely focuses on relationship building aspects of your practice.