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Reducing Referral-Based Revenue Leakage with Automated Patient Engagement

By: Ryan Vowles, Marketing Manager at TeleVox

Healthcare providers are always on the prowl for ways to improve their bottom line. However, there is one area that is often overlooked: referral-based revenue leakage. 

What is Referral Leakage?

Patient referral leakage occurs when patients are referred to a specialist but do not follow through with the referral. This results in a significant loss in revenue for healthcare providers.

Referral Leakage Statistics

According to a study by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, just under 35% of specialty referral appointments result in a documented visit. This means that healthcare providers are losing out on significant potential revenue due to patients not following through with referrals. And when you consider that more than 1/3 of patients are referred to a specialist each year, that is a lot of missed opportunities. 

The cost of patient referral leakage is significant. Over 10% of revenue is lost due to patients going elsewhere for care and health systems lose 55% – 65% of potential inpatient care revenue as a result of referral leakage. 

But why do so many patients pass on their specialty referrals? Well, there is no one answer. Instead, it’s a variety of factors that can contribute to referral leakage. 

One common theme with missed referrals is a misunderstanding of appointment scheduling ownership. Referred patients may often be asking themselves who needs to set the appointment up. “Do I need to call to schedule the appointment?” “Will someone be calling me?” “How long do I need to wait for someone?” 

Another common hurdle that leads to referral leakage is lack of time. Patients are increasingly becoming impatient and demanding quick seamless communication and scheduling. They don’t want to wait around for a call, and they may not even accept a phone call from a number they don’t recognize. Moreover, they are unlikely to tolerate long call wait times, re-routed calls, or phone tag. 

So how can healthcare providers overcome these hurdles to reduce referral-based revenue leakage? Automated patient engagement technology is a good place to start.

Minimizing Referral Leakage with Automated Patient Engagement

Automated patient engagement workflows can streamline the referral outreach process and help ensure that patients follow through with referrals once they accept their appointment – all while saving healthcare providers time and resources. By automating the outreach to referred patients via SMS, email and voice, providers can reduce the amount of time and resources spent on manual outreach. This allows staff to spend more time on higher-value tasks.

Here’s an example. Mike was recently referred to an orthopedic specialist regarding his injured finger. Mike doesn’t typically carry his phone on him throughout the workday because he works construction in a very messy environment. This means he is unlikely to answer any calls from the orthopedist’s office. Thankfully, the orthopedic office is leveraging TeleVox’s EHR-integrated HouseCalls Pro patient engagement platform and sent Mike a personalized automated message via SMS. During Mike’s lunch break, he finally had a moment to open his phone and saw the SMS message from the orthopedic office about his referral. All Mike had to do from there was reply “1” and he was automatically connected to their scheduling associate to make his appointment! 

Flash forward a few weeks to Mike’s appointment date. Mike has been receiving SMS reminders about his upcoming referral appointment and is well aware of the time and location. He’d taken the afternoon off of work and is unlikely to forget about the appointment. 

You can see another example of TeleVox’s referral management workflow in action by watching this video.

Strategic use of automated patient engagement technology can streamline the entire referral process for healthcare providers to reduce referral leakage. Well-timed patient communications are sent automatically to the patient so that they are informed of the status of their referral and have a seamless scheduling process. Additionally, automated patient engagement technology will keep patients updated about their appointment to reduce the likelihood of a no-show. To learn more about TeleVox’s referral management solution, follow this link