Ask referring offices how you perform: We regularly poll our referring offices (unofficially and more systematically) to ensure the referral process runs smoothly. Sometimes it’s just practice preference but we’ve also found flaws in our own system. Make a point when speaking with referring practitioners to ask if the referral process is simple and if they get the results they expect. You’ll be surprised at the answers.
Eliminate the Call Back Shelf: There’s nothing I hate more than the call back shelf. It’s one (or more) shelves that hold charts for patients that need to be called back. It’s a depository for everything that can “wait until another day”. You often find charts that are years old. Either automate the process in a computer (so that you set the date to call back) or have one day of the week where someone has time to empty the shelf.
Separate Phones and Patients: Not every practice can do this but when you have more than 2 people on the front desk try and separate the phone calls. Nothing is worse than interrupted time for patients either on the phone or when at the front desk. I resisted this measure in our main office until we had greater than 5 people working the front desk thinking that we were maximizing people use. In fact, it slowed things down (because of repeatedly switching tasks) and annoyed both referring offices and patients. By separating the people that answer the phone and those that deal with people at the front our hang up rate is near 0%.
Call Back: When a patient is referred assume that you’re going to have to deal with referred patients sooner or later so create a call back mechanism to follow-up on people that forget to call you. Some don’t want you to bother them but most know they need the help and appreciate the attentiveness. I met many specialists that want little/no interaction with the patient until they’re through the door.
Follow-Up: Nothing is more frustrating to a referring office than getting no information back. I’ve posted before about ways to improve the process but make sure to send information back frequently. Even automated letters are better than no information at all.
For an additional post on this topic see 5S.