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Solving Rural Inefficiencies Can Improve Care Outcomes, Drive Patient Loyalty

Nurse holding hands with a young patient

It’s another busy day in the emergency room-a patient arrives with a deep cut. After stitching him up, the ER physician writes an order referring the patient to see his primary care doctor the following week for suture removal, however, no follow-up appointment is scheduled.

As a result, the unscheduled patient is likely to head out of network to an urgent care clinic, an all-too-common example of a referral inefficiency. When appointment referrals fall through or information isn’t shared properly within your healthcare network, inefficiencies can add to the disinterest of patients, who may already have little to no loyalty to your facility or health network.

Multiply this instance by dozens of interactions every day in your hospital and physician offices. The impact of referral inefficiencies can create upset patients and frustrated providers, lead to worsened chronic conditions, patient leakage, and lower patient loyalty and satisfaction. Ultimately, it could end up damaging your brand in the eyes of your community. While this may sound like an extreme scenario, there is evidence that referral inefficiencies are impacted by one crucial invaluable asset-patient loyalty.

Measuring Patient Loyalty

Patient loyalty is a growing concern for health leaders. The recent release of the Loyalty Index, which ranks the top 100 U.S. hospitals based on patient loyalty, shows that hospitals have far to go. Most high-ranking hospitals scored well in two vital areas:

  1. Access

    - Ease of access to services

  2. Motivation

    - A measure of how motivated a patient is to choose one hospital or another

However, even the best hospitals scored low on Patient Engagement, which measures the overall customer experience. Statistics also show that 40 percent of patients in the U.S. don’t have a sense of loyalty to one hospital in their market.

How Referral Inefficiencies Impact Patient Loyalty

What connects referral inefficiency to patient loyalty? Like all other consumer experiences, patients have grown accustomed to ease-of-access. The healthcare industry has made it much more difficult.

Successful systems that look to exceed patient expectations of care offer same-day appointments and strong care coordination. With the rise in patient deductibles, the expectation on the part of patients is much greater. Patients expect a seamless healthcare experience when moving from one provider to another, one that interrupts their daily lives as little as possible.

How to Solve Referral Inefficiency

Ensuring patients have quick and convenient access to the care they need calls for adaptive workflows supported by customer-centric technology platforms.

One effort funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that’s aimed at gathering primary care best practices suggests the following to help improve referrals:

  • Be accountable

    - Ensure that all referrals meet the time-sensitive needs of patients and providers.

  • Support patients

    - Make sure patients get the information and care they need, which includes helping them find and schedule services, track progress, and review results.

  • Establish relationships

    – Reach out to different providers and service organizations in the community—build trust and develop shared expectations for referrals.

  • Develop connections

    – Work with providers and organizations who care for your patients to facilitate seamless interactions and timely flow of patient information.

Hospitals and healthcare facilities need to adopt platforms designed to streamline care coordination in ways that mirror the consumer experience—well-coordinated, transparent, and timely.

Even with all the unique workflows revolving around appointments and orders, hospitals can’t ignore a shift in expectations and still attract, or retain patients. With the right referral system in place, they can build a strong foundation for that much desired loyalty.

Read on to learn more about MEDHOST’s solutions for solving referral efficiency.

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