Monday, April 28, 2008

5S – Accepting Referrals from Other Health Care Practitioners

For those of you who accept referrals from other practitioners here are some tips to improving patient flow and ease the referral process. I’ve put them into the standard 5S format. Please remember that one of the keystones’ to 5S is transfer of responsibility to the employee. It is not enough to hand the ideas for de-cluttering referral management to the front desk and ask them to change. Instead, work through the 5S process and allow you’re administrators to take ownership for the changes and find the solutions best for you’re practice. Nine times out of ten front line workers come up with better ideas anyway.

Sorting: Keep the essential information only. A chart will be made in due time but rather than multiple pieces of paper/programs have a single resource for all referrals. This is especially important when more than 1 person is recording the referrals where two or three books could be maintained, each with multiple slips of paper for each referral.

Simplifying: The process needs to be simple. The best way to acoomplish simplicity is to computerize the referral process and have it integrated with the schedule. The referral is recorded, booked and if the patient cancels or no shows they go back on a call list. If not computerized create a process that simplifies all of the “what-ifs” in trying to book the consultation.

Sweeping: Ensure that all referrals have been entered and organized by day’s end

Standardizing: Have a uniform means of recording the referral and a standard method to organize the consult. If there is no answer, call back every 2 days for a week, then every 2 weeks. The frequency doesn’t matter so much as everyone in the office doing the same schedule. Also standardize the time where you book incoming referrals if you’re using block scheduling. Eg. You receive X referrals / week so you’ve blocked X time slots per week.

Sustaining: Have a back-step process to look for patients that are still on call lists but are not being contacted. Our office has a small query created that looks for patients that are still on the call lists but not being called. Where we find a group of patients that fall into this category we change the process.

For some of our referrals the system is very slick. They email the referral which is automatically imported into the referral management system/EMR. It shows on the call list as "EMAIL" and the administrator enters the information (any xray's are attached). When the administrator hits "save" an auto-email is sent back saying "Your patient Joe Smith was entered on April 29, 2008 by IFurst in our XXX office and will be contacted in 1 business day". The patient is then contacted, treated and the correspondence back to the referring doctor is by email as well.

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