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Getting better referrals

June 1, 2010
by Thomas R. Ferry
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Technology can help by providing better data

At a glance…

Technology can provide you with a continuously updated source of actionable business intelligence to help increase your referral rate.

Long-term care communities today that rely on liaisons and voice mail for referrals might as well use an abacus and paper ledger for accounting. Not embracing technology to improve patient care and business results is the epitome of backward thinking. It not only preempts progress and profit, it makes technology laggards lose ground to the competition, to those organizations that are building for the future.

Technology adoption is not a nice-to-have. It's a must-have.

It's evolutionary

Hesitation, skepticism, even fear. All understandable feelings in the face of new technology. Understandable, but not acceptable. After all, it wasn't that long ago when telephones, fax machines, e-mail, and mobile phones were considered curiosities. Today, they're indispensible choices to facilitate communication.

Web-based software applications-whether ASP, SaaS, cloud, or an even newer technology acronym or buzzword-are simply the latest in a series of communications options from which all participants in the continuum of care may choose. And benefit from. Twenty years ago, hospitals migrated from mail to fax machines, because it was a faster method of communicating patient information. Then came e-mail.

Now Web-based software helps speed communication even more. Instead of collecting one-off faxes as they come in, staff can review at once the real-time array of all pending referrals. This holistic view enables you to select your best options. It's a huge improvement over earlier choices in the evolutionary chain of communication channels. And it won't be the last.

It's inevitable

Even though it's credited to an ancient Greek philosopher, the old saying, “The only thing certain is change” applies to modern-day technology. What today seems new (and daunting) will be commonplace tomorrow.

Technology solutions like Web-based software for post-acute providers recognize that and incorporate an array of communication options-including telephones, fax machines, and mobile devices. As these options expand in the future, you can expect technology to advance and incorporate them as well.

After all, at the core of the government's $21-billion program for electronic health records (EHR) is the goal of communicating-sharing-patient information, billing information, and more beyond the walls of the hospital with, among others, post-acute providers. Whether you get some of the stimulus money or not, EHR is coming. Why not start benefiting from the electronic transmission of comprehensive, relevant referral packets?

Good business sense

Diversifying and enhancing your technology toolkit doesn't have to include a capital investment and elaborate training for staff. It should, and can, be HIPAA-compliant and interoperable with all leading health information systems. Additionally, Web-based technology should aid compliance with federal and state regulations by automatically creating a detailed audit trail of activities.

With automatically captured data displayed in user-friendly reports, you're then well-positioned to run your business better. Regularly receiving, reviewing, and responding to business intelligence generated by patient-transition technology enables you to:

  • Enhance provider relationships. By using data, you can be a more proactive, better partner. Watch readmissions by hospital, and if there's a spike, look into the cause and address it before the hospital sees the readmit rate and cuts off referrals. With reports stripped of duplicate referrals, you can see whether hospitals are sending enough eligible cases your way. If not, consider doing some education to make sure hospitals are aware of all your facility's capabilities.

  • Gain market insights. By examining patients by payer type, you can discover whether a community has a heavy Medicaid or commercial mix to determine if you want to expand services there. You can also look at data to track by hospital the percent of referrals sent and placed to identify new business opportunities-which referrals could you have accepted, for example, if you offered a particular service?

  • Operate more efficiently and profitably. By routinely tracking response times, you'll know whether intake staff is performing well and whether remedial action is necessary. The sooner you are able to approve the referrals you want, the more likely you are to get the patients you need to manage your business.

Diversifying and enhancing your technology tool kit doesn't have to include a capital investment and elaborate training for staff.

The real value of patient-transition technology goes far beyond automation and matching. With a continuously updated source of actionable business intelligence, it makes a real bottom-line difference to your business.

Thomas R. Ferry is President and CEO of Curaspan Health Group in Newton, Massachusetts. He can be reached at (800) 446-9614.

To send your comments to the editor, please e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Long-Term Living 2010 June;59(6):34-35

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