Althea A. Fung


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Using Data and Technology to Reduce Preventable Patient Referral Leakage — Strategic Health Care Marketing

Picture this: A patient goes to her primary care physician with complaints of dark, dry skin patches on her arms. The doctor, who is a staff physician at a large health system in New York City, quickly determines that she has acanthosis nigricans and prescribes a topical ointment. The doctor also suggests she see an endocrinologist to determine if the condition is associated with an endocrine or hormonal disorder. As the patient prepares to leave the office, the front-desk attendant hands her a referral to an endocrinologist — at a competitor organization.

While there are many good reasons why the doctor might have referred the patient to an outside physician, from an organizational standpoint this occurrence — known as referral leakage — is bad for business. Organizations lose on average $780,000 annually per employed physician that refers out of the health system, according to ReferralMD, a physician referral management organization. That translates to an estimated $200 million to $500 million in lost revenue to competitors each year.

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