4 tips for specialty practices on referrals and payer mix

Male doctor in white lab coat
Specialty practices should cultivate patient referrals. (Getty/Saklakova)

Most "ologist" practices—specialists such as urologists, dermatologists, and endocrinologists—depend on two sources for their patients: referrals from primary care providers and insurance networks.

Therefore, it makes sense to pay close attention to both, tracking and nurturing those resources for referrals, according to Renal & Urology News.

The value of referrals to specialists was recently confirmed by a Mayo Clinic study that found more than 20% of patients who sought a second opinion from specialists were misdiagnosed by primary care providers.

Here are four suggestions to make the best use of referrals:

Track referrals. Be sure office staff ask all new patients who referred them and enter the information into the data management system. Generate reports twice a year to analyze referral patterns to determine who is referring patients to your practice. 

Ask for feedback. Send a survey to referring physicians, asking about the service you are providing and patient feedback. You may find that patients have complained about long wait times for appointments or the need to continuously call for results from a consultation. 

Build relationships. Ask colleagues to refer their patients and send a note each year to doctors who make referrals letting them know you appreciate them sending you patients and informing them about any new services you provide.

Have a good payer mix, with referrals from commercial insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. A good rule of thumb is that no single payer should represent more than 20% of a practice’s income, Ken Hertz, principal consultant at the Medical Group Management Association, told the publication.