Cost of referral leakage for U.S. health systems comes in at an estimated $78-$97 million of revenue for every 100,000 physicians, per year. There are other costs to consider as well. For example, when patients are referred out-of-system, coordination of care is often interrupted—impacting patient outcomes. An out-of-network specialist may also order scans or therapies that don’t adhere your health system’s quality standards, compromising patient safety and ultimately the hospital’s reputation.
One more cost consideration involves the resources wasted getting patients in the door to begin with. As patients increasingly consider healthcare a commodity, and “shop around” like they would for a car or new dishwasher, health systems are spending more to attract “customers.” When a patient leaves the system, those efforts—financial and time invested—are nullified.
In the same Referral MD article that provided the above statistics (“30 Healthcare Statistics That Keep Hospital Executives Up At Night”), a recurring theme to the nightmare scenarios was lack of communication—something so financially irresponsible, yet so fixable. That’s where email can step in and pick up the slack.
Why Email Does It Best
When it comes to physician communication, email is the most preferred channel. Part of the draw is its 24/7 accessibility. A doc taking the train home after a long shift can catch up on his inbox, thanks to always-advancing mobile technology.
The financial burden is clearly apparent.
Yet, effective communication requires much more finesse than purchasing a physician email list and deploying to all docs with the message “Here’s why you should refer in-network.” One, not all lists are created equal. And two, a blanket memo like that is more likely to end up in the trash than make an impact.
Fixing the second relies heavily on the first, in that list quality provides the basis from which you can identify, segment, and deploy targeted messaging to problem areas within your physician population.
What Makes a List “Great”?
One indication of a quality list is that it only includes physicians who have opted in to receive communications. You’re already ahead of the game, because you’re providing information to physicians who have raised their hands and said, “Yes! I want to hear from you.” The source of an email address comes not from a questionable offshore scraping process but directly from the physicians themselves.
That’s where email can step in and pick up the slack.
Another determining factor of list quality is its shelf life. The longer it “sits” without being updated, the less it can be trusted. Staffing shifts occur without warning, but using a list that’s updated every 24 hours ensures you stay on top of hires, fires, and retires.
Physicians might maintain a few email accounts, but do you know which inbox they check the most? The physician list you employ should indicate a doc’s preferred address. Sending to any other risks missed opportunities to engage. Alternatively, sending to all addresses within the list duplicates messaging—an annoying circumstance whether you’re a physician or the average Joe.
Finally, a high-quality physician list will include more than the “basics” of name and email address, such as specialty, practice location, and most importantly for the purpose of this discussion, referral patterns. From that data, you can segment and target physicians appropriately.
Using a list that’s updated every 24 hours ensures you stay on top of hires, fires, and retires.
Remember, the directive doesn’t always have to be fixative. If you’ve identified physicians who are excellent referrers within your organization, the occasional acknowledgment of such and expression of gratitude can go a long way towards reinforcing physician relationships and ensuring referrals stay in-network going forward.
Sleep Tight, Hospital Marketer
Don’t be like one of those hospital executives who is kept up at night, contemplating all the things that can go wrong within the health system. Take responsibility where you can, specifically by using email to communicate effectively and efficiently with physicians.