Improving Referral Management
Technology can decrease errors, improve response time, ensure compliance and grow your pipeline.
- By Ellen Sluder
- Nov 01, 2016
Getting and retaining new business is a top challenge
in HME. Referrals are an integral part of your revenue pipeline, and today’s
referral turns into tomorrow’s repeat customer. But as important as they are,
referrals often don’t get the strategic focus they deserve. Most companies
handle referrals manually which can result in disorganization, delays, and
added layers of inefficiency that eat into profitability.
A solid process management technology that leverages automation will alleviate
most of the challenges with today’s referral management. Proper referral
management will provide the visibility and control you need to ensure you
maximize every new revenue opportunity.
Standardize referral handling across channels. HME providers
get referrals from a variety of sources including rehab clinics, physicians,
hospitals, referral coordinators or even a family member of the patient. The
order can be communicated by phone, fax, email or walk in. In a homegrown
manual referral handling process, this complicated web of incoming referrals
can create issues of inconsistency, human error or, in some cases, completely
overlooking a new referral. Workflow management software enables you to put
all referrals into a single pipeline and apply a standard, consistent process for
Centralize to improve visibility. A lot of providers rely on email for the
handling of communication around referrals. This can be because the faxed
order comes in electronically or because there was missing information that
requires a back and forth communication. Email, a personal communication
tool, just wasn’t designed for this type of work. It is essentially a manual
process in disguise. Information can be easily lost or overlooked and there is
rarely a backup plan for employee absences. Using a referral management technology
solution means that all referrals are in one spot, and they can be monitored
and tracked. If an employee is out of the office, another staff member can
pick right up without missing a beat.
Auto-prioritize referrals. When work is completed within a business
process management tool, deciding what to do next is determined by the
business strategy, not by individual employee preferences. If new business is a
top priority, the software will ensure that referrals are automatically sorted to
the top of the to-do list. Depending on the software, you may even be able to
prioritize depending on the type of product in demand, allowing you to focus
on high margin orders first.
Never miss an opportunity with alerts. In some situations, referral
sources distribute referrals to multiple providers at once and whoever is the
first to respond will win the business. This means you can’t risk letting a
new referral notification languish on your fax machine. Some systems, like
Medforce’s Referral Management App, don’t even require you to manually push
referrals into a central pipeline. When referrals are automatically pulled into
a centralized and streamlined portal, it means you can leverage alerts that let
you know real-time when a new opportunity has arrived. Even if you have to
push your referrals into the software, you can still take advantage of escalations
and alerts to keep you on track. If no one has responded to a referral in
a set amount of time, an escalation can be triggered making sure nothing falls
through the cracks. You gain new confidence that every opportunity is being
grabbed without having to constantly monitor the system.
Analyze and improve your pipeline. When it comes to growing your
business, knowledge is power. When you have all of your referrals going into
a single pipeline regardless of source, you gain a tremendous ability to analyze
them. A business process management tool will allow you to monitor how
many referrals you’re getting in a month, whether that’s up or down from the
previous month – and possibly even pinpoint why. If things are up, you want
to keep doing what’s going well. If things are down, you have the opportunity
to focus on where to make changes. The more information you have, the better
decisions you will make regarding resource allocation and process and procedures.
It can teach you a lot about your business you didn’t know before.
Decode employee performance. In addition to looking at your pipeline
from the angle of referral volume and source, having a consistent and visible
process will give you the ability to examine employee performance. It will
allow you to understand where bottlenecks may exist, if there are differences
in productivity, and provide insight into refinements that might need to
happen. It could be as simple as a training issue or it could be about redesigning
t the process or reassigning employees to tasks better suited to their
Get the information right the first time. One complaint we hear a lot
is that referral sources may leave out critical pieces of data. There are add-on
elements to referral process management that can help guarantee you have
everything you need from the start. A web portal where referral sources go
directly to fill in a pre-determined form – not allowing submission until the
mandatory fields are completed – or an electronic signature tool that prompts
the referral source to confirm authorization are two ways you can dramatically
cut down on the back and forth often associated with new referrals.
Eliminate duplication of effort with data extraction and interoperability. If your referral management software is enabled with OCR technology,
you can populate your database by extracting vital information from typed
faxes, scanned paperwork, or email attachments to populate your database.
Now, all of the information can reside in the same, consistent database as the
information that comes in through web portals and electronic forms. You can
then push this information to the business applications you use most such
as your patient files in your document management program or your billing
software. This eliminates the need to re-type pertinent info, reducing errors
and ensuring complete patient files.
Save time and improve margins. Working a referral is a cost of sales. The
longer it takes, the lower your profitability. Whenever possible, allowing technology
to do the work that doesn’t require a human brain (such as automated
alerts, auto-filing, data capture, document-routing, pipeline tracking) will free
up time and resources to focus on even more revenue-generating activities.
More than anything, a solid technology solution will allow you to nurture
your referral sources and grow your pipeline. Improving turnaround times,
minimizing the need for back-and-forth communication, and setting clear
expectations from the start will build your reputation as a responsive provider.
And, knowing which referral sources are your best channels allows you to
proactively cultivate those relationships and make adjustments that allow
them to flourish. Adding automation technology to your referral management
provides the tools and insight needed to improve your processes and secure
more profitable business.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of HME Business.
Ellen Sluder is the vice president of marketing for Medforce Technologies (www.medforcetech.com), where she works to help providers understand how technology can help them uncover more time and money to power their missions.