4 ways to prevent patient "leakage"

Old habits contribute to the number of physicians who refer patients to out-of-network providers
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Healthcare providers can take several steps to reduce patient "leakage," the industry term for primary care physicians who refer patients to out-of-system providers, rather than to those in their network, resulting in significant business losses, according to a blog post from Simon Associates' Kriss Barlow.

In an earlier post, Barlow ran down factors that contribute to leakage, including old habits, patient requests and tendency for doctors to make referrals to colleagues they know well. Although there is no magic-bullet solution to the phenomenon, several steps before or immediately after an agreement with a physician practice can help maximize referrals, according to Barlow. These include:

Understand current patterns: Upon signing contracts with practices, healthcare organizations must discuss referral patterns, work/life expectations and the potential to make referrals into the system. "Referrals don't just happen--doctors earn them through relationship building, demonstrated quality and improved patient experience," Barlow writes.

Move fast: It's easy for referral introductions to end up on the back burner during the final stages of contract negotiations, but organizations must avoid this and immediately establish the referral-earning process, she writes.

Improve care coordination: Formal care coordination has paid off for many organizations seeking to make sure "the right patient receives the right level of care with the right type of facility or care provider," according to Barlow.

Involve office staff: Organizations must remember how much of the referral process falls on physicians' staff, Barlow writes, so organizations should keep them in the loop while planning the new referral model.

To learn more:
- read the first blog post
- here's the second post

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