Referral coordination within a high value network is a critical piece of the value based care puzzle. Many accountable care executives understand its importance but overlook the fact that it takes more than just installing referral management technology to be successful. There’s a significant culture shift that has to occur, an ‘all hands on deck’ mentality that must be instilled organization-wide.
In my last blog, I discussed the first of three best practices to achieve a successful long-term referral coordination strategy – Explain the Why. Educating your entire team – from executive to front desk staff – about both the emotional and business aspects of accountable care can make a significant difference in reducing their natural resistance to change. The second best practice is to Validate and Be Ready for Objections.
Validation is a simple yet powerful communication tool. Who doesn’t want to feel ‘heard’? If you take a moment to communicate an understanding of how a staff person is feeling about a change in their day-to-day workflow, you immediately decrease anxiety and start chipping away at the defensive wall they’ve built to protect themselves from the stress of change. In conjunction with exercising your validation skills, be ready for their objections with responses that appeal to both their intellect and emotions. Here’s a list of the four most common objections and thoughtful responses I’ve encountered during my decade long tenure in the referral coordination space:
“We have too much work already.”
First and foremost, ask how they are currently managing referrals. If they do nothing more than give the patient the name of a doctor and tell the patient to call on their own then the PCP and their office are simply not doing basic accountable care work. So yes, it would be more work. Therefore, the objection is not “too much work” but rather “we don’t do accountable care work.” Educate on the importance of referral management in the context of value-based care and escalate the practice to the leadership team. If the PCP’s staff are sending out referrals via phone, fax, eFax, mail, etc. then a referral coordination technology platform can be a time saver by automating the referral electronically. The referral along with supporting documentation can be sent and the status plus all communications tracked. Missed calls, trading voicemails, and/or looking for lost faxes will be eliminated. Plus, your patients will appreciate the feeling of support from your practice.
“We don’t have enough staff.”
This is a ‘false worry’ although it certainly doesn’t feel that way to the person who is saying it. Start your response with validation like, “It must be really overwhelming to not have enough staff. The good news is a technology platform that interacts with your EHR can actually help everyone’s ability to manage referrals. It just takes a little time to get used to.” Once you’ve validated and planted the idea that a referral management platform will help their pain point – follow the scenario above. Start with “tell me how you’re currently managing referrals.”
“We don’t see a benefit to using a referral coordination platform. It ends up being a waste of effort.”
This is an easy one to hit “out of the park.” If you hear this, it means the practice has not embraced or don’t fully understand or appreciate what it means to be in the population health / value-based care world. Both the providers and the entire staff need to really understand this concept and buy into it. Otherwise, they will not be a good partner. This is something that they may not ‘get’ until they begin to experience the consequences of losing patients to other providers, not being selected for higher reimbursement rates with health insurers, and/or not being chosen to be part of the network. Continue to reiterate the ‘worth’ of a referral from both a clinical and financial standpoint and better understand what exactly he or she is perceiving as a ‘waste of effort’. Perhaps a simple workflow tweak will completely change their minds.
“We don’t want to have to log into yet another system.”
Who can’t relate to this objection? We run into this every day in our own jobs and personal lives so this is very understandable. It’s true. A centralized referral management platform that’s used by an entire network of providers is another system. However, the time it saves by auto populating a referral and attaching a summary of care that’s been generated in the EHR is huge. This in itself removes a lot of the manual work you’re doing today to send a referral. Also, specialists receive referrals from a variety of different places in the form of fax, mail, provider phone calls, and patient phone calls. Leveraging a technology platform specific to referrals will help minimize follow up work and enable you to download and categorize referrals much more efficiently.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m curious to know what objections you most often hear when it comes to implementing new technology aimed at managing the referrals between your PCPs and specialists.
When Joe's not driving all aspects of business development at Infina Connect, he's hanging out at the beach with his wife and kids, surfing or flying airplanes. Joe is beyond passionate about changing healthcare and the impact referral coordination within high value networks can have on the patient experience, clinical outcomes, and affordability.