Stop Losing Referring Physicians to Competing Hospitals

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Stop Losing Referring Physicians to Competing Hospitals

Posted on Wed, Oct 26, 2016

Recruiting physicians who will send their patients to your hospital is ongoing, but the recruitment can be made easier if your hospital incorporates state-of-the-art healthcare solutions that benefit the referring physician.

As a hospital administrator, you may already have a base of physicians who refer patients, but how do you attract more and how do you keep the ones you have from sending their patients across town to your competition instead?  Have you considered how much revenue you may be missing out on each time you lose a referral to a competitor?

The full solution is not simple, but by developing processes that are physician-friendly, you make it easier for physicians to do their jobs and care for their patients—a good start to ensuring physicians prefer your hospital over all others.

Part of the interaction between hospitals and physicians are referral orders, physician orders, and other supporting criteria. These critical documents impact both the revenue cycle and patient care. The physician order typically kicks off the revenue cycle process, affects all pre-encounter activities, and drives final reimbursement. Ensuring you have a secure physician order management system in place to receive and process those orders should be a core part of your physician-friendly process.

The system you choose will need to be secure, user-friendly on both ends of the process, and capable of accepting many different types of information delivery. While we now have access to email, texts, scanning, and many other forms of communicative technology, many of your older physicians still use secure faxing or fax servers to send referral orders. The best system will act as a data gateway for any type of information source.

Other physicians may be tied into a PMS/EMR like eClinicalWorks or an online delivery system. They might even prefer to call in their orders. Either way, you need to be able to receive referral orders and communicate efficiently—and you need a system that will make it easy for both your hospital and the referring physician.

HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system is a great example of technology that can ease the interaction between referring physicians and hospitals. The program can be integrated with a variety of other systems and offers secure faxing as well as the ability to intercept traditional, email, and even text and phone orders. The system is designed to be versatile and extremely user-friendly, allowing your physicians to easily submit their orders in nearly any way they choose.

While a program like ActiveXCHANGE would go a long way toward smoothing physician-hospital interactions, the issue of retaining and recruiting referring physicians is admittedly complicated. Below are some recommendations that might help your hospital recruit and retain referring physicians more easily, with fewer losses over time.

  • Create an easy work environment with the right technology to make patient and physician interactions easy and effective.
  • Institute an ongoing communications program to ensure regular and consistent communication between the hospital and referring physicians—and make sure the right person is in charge.
  • Commit to a timely appointment process. Referring physicians hate to have their patients’ care delayed due to financial clearance issues that could have been completed before the patient arrived. Employ healthcare solutions that ensure insurance verification, pre-authorizations, and price estimation tasks are completed prior to arrival.
  • Communicate regularly with referring physicians about their patients. Let them know when the patient has been scheduled, that you appreciate the referral, and that you will continue to communicate about what follows. Always make sure they feel in control of their patients’ care, and keep them informed with regular progress reports.
  • Understand the competition and build a real relationship. Your clinical competence is not enough to make you stand out as the only option. Other qualified professionals will be competing for the physician’s business. Make sure your hospital is the most appealing.
  • Build a relationship founded upon trust. While it’s good if the physician likes you on a personal level, that opinion is not as important as the physician’s feelings about your staff and facility in terms of trust and capability.
  • Maximize your physicians’ time with more efficient internal processes. HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system is an example of technology that can be implemented to increase internal efficiency and allow physicians to focus more of their time on patients instead of administrative tasks.

The primary secret of building and retaining your referral base is focusing on relationship building and technology that makes referral order management easier. Professionals are more likely to have confidence in your hospital and send their patients your way if a strong relationship is in place. Start there, and the rest will follow.

Take a moment to review the interaction processes, policies, and channels between your hospital and referring physicians. A few small changes might make a huge difference towards the satisfaction of your physicians in their work—and with it, the overall quality of the work they do. Improving the quality of care is a goal every hospital can get behind and it all starts with the physician order.

By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer

How to Increase Hospital Efficiency

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HealthWare Systems Blog

How to Increase Hospital Efficiency

Posted on Wed, Oct 19, 2016

As many administrators know, hospital efficiency is an elusive goal. If you were to stand in a hospital lobby and look around at the organized chaos taking place, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where to make changes in order to improve operations and reduce costs, while still maintaining a high quality of care. The task can seem overwhelming. And certainly, improving your hospital’s operational efficiency is not going to happen overnight—but it can happen.

To start, you will need to ferret out the time-wasting and money-consuming problems that are hovering just out of sight. You must begin by targeting two things: the cost of care and the quality of care.

The cost of care, of course, is an obvious focal point. Most of the health legislation passed within the last decade has been aimed at reducing the cost of quality healthcare in the U.S.—and for good reason. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), U.S. expenditures on healthcare in 2014 actually increased by 5.3 percent from the prior year, reaching $3 trillion or $9,523 per person.

Obviously something needs to be done, especially since healthcare spending accounted for 17.1 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2014, compared to 9.1 percent in the United Kingdom. In fact, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation with such high numbers in healthcare spending.

That’s the big picture. For hospital administrators, of course, the focus will be on what they can do within their own hospital to reduce costs while still providing quality healthcare. That brings us to our second area of focus: the quality of care.

Think of the aspects of your hospital where you see the most complaints and the greatest friction, both from your patients and from the hospital employees. These areas are different for every hospital, but here are a few of the more common issues:

  •  Wait times  (either for emergency or scheduled patients)
  • Interdepartmental interactions
  • Nurse-doctor-staff relationships
  • Paperwork management and tracking
  • Computer software operation and security

There are certainly many more areas where friction might exist—and your hospital is going to have its own unique problem areas. Locating them is essential. The reason: increasing hospital efficiency in the long run is not just about cutting costs, but also about smoothing out internal concerns that might be taking away from your overall quality of care. Focusing your energy on those areas first can help you weed out some of the major inefficiencies, so you can turn your focus back to providing the highest quality healthcare possible.

To grasp the full picture within your hospital, you’ll need to do some internal research to identify and examine your major areas of concern. Don’t be afraid to talk to staff, nurses, technicians, and volunteers, as well as providers and patients. They are involved in the day-to-day operation of the hospital as well and might have insights you hadn’t considered. In the meantime, below are some general steps you can take to increase overall hospital efficiency and start turning your hospital’s culture towards cooperation, communication, and smooth operation.

Plan Ahead. It’s especially vital to have a good scheduling and tracking system for your patients, as well as clear policies for any situations that could occur. In particular, timeliness in patient interaction has been identified in a recent study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as one of the fundamental aims for providing quality healthcare. Scheduling your patients appropriately and setting up contingency plans for potential unforeseen issues so that your patient flow doesn’t get clogged up are both essential for achieving any hospital efficiency goals.

Get Rid of All the Paper. Half the world has gone paperless and it seems only the healthcare industry is lagging behind. Centralized, paperless systems are the way of the future, and hospitals will need to adjust. HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE system, for instance, removes the need for paper copies of physician orders or other documentation that normally would be dragged by the patient from one department to another. Instead, physician orders are immediately transmitted to the appropriate department, saving time and the hassle of tracking down any misplaced paperwork. HealthWare’s ActiveREG system can also reduce paperwork by turning the initial registration process paperless. Best of all, no more filing since the records are kept electronically.

Improve Internal Communication. Another vital component for hospital efficiency is keeping staff members informed about the hospital’s goals and your organization’s plan for providing quality care. For that reason, your team of providers, staff, and nurses within each department needs to maintain constant communication—which is pretty hard sometimes. The best solution is to encourage and reward cooperation. You can also facilitate communication and cooperation through technology. Making it easier for departments to work together increases the likelihood that they will. A system like HealthWare’s ActiveTRACK, for example, could provide immediate information about a patient’s location to all relevant staff, keeping everyone up-to-date, while eliminating stress and confusion. HealthWare’s ActiveCHECK system can also help you cut down on mistakes or errors that can cause interdepartmental friction. Computer programs that can help improve efficiency and centralize information are out there—and the benefits are hard to deny.

While there’s no quick fix or cure-all for your hospital efficiency woes, there are steps you can take to start moving in the right direction. Don’t let the rising cost of healthcare and the increasing burden of legislative penalties weigh you down. You have options—and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll begin to see results.

By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer

3 Strategies for Cultivating Hospital-Physician Relationships

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HealthWare Systems Blog

3 Strategies for Cultivating Hospital-Physician Relationships

Posted on Wed, Oct 12, 2016

The relationship between hospitals and physicians has always been somewhat rocky. Although both groups seem to fight the same battle on the surface, underneath they have often butted heads with one another due to economic, administrative, and power-driven conflicts.

In recent years, hospital-physician relationships have become a source of scrutiny for many hospitals. They’ve come to realize that the strain of combative interactions could affect patient care outcomes (and probably has in the past).

To keep up with recent legislation and the growing power of consumers in the healthcare industry, hospitals and physicians will need to find a way to bury the hatchet.

Meeting quality care standards is hard enough, but keeping consumers happy and following payer requirements are equally difficult tasks. To meet these challenges, hospitals and physicians must become allies.

The key to building any alliance is a common goal. A shared purpose goes a long way in binding two disparate groups—and what more powerful purpose is there than the health and welfare of a population?

The research agrees. One article featured in Frontiers of Health Services Management stated that “forming relationships that center around shared purpose and values will lay the foundation for excellence and sustainability while restoring a sense of meaning, pride, and joy to the healthcare professions.”

So how do hospital administrators and physicians build this sense of shared purpose? Below are three general strategies that should be applied in every hospital to build up stronger and more cooperative hospital-physician relationships.

Set Clear Expectations

When creating a contract with a physician, hospitals must be up front and clear about their exact expectations. This includes any performance measures, scheduling expectations, patient interaction expectations—everything.

The physician also needs to be involved in creating those expectations. Treat the relationship as a partnership. Benefits and compromises should go both ways. In no way should the contract discussion come across as the hospital dictating to the physician or vice versa.

A shared purpose means respect on both sides, and the contract creation process—as well as enforcement over time—will need to reflect that relationship.

Eliminate the Power Struggle

One common point of contention between physicians and hospitals is power. Who has it and who makes the decisions? In this case, both parties have to realize that they need each other.

Hospitals need physicians to provide quality care for the patients. Physicians need hospitals to help with administrative tasks and house more advanced equipment for patient testing and treatment. A balance can be found.

To start, hospitals need to invite physician input prior to making major decisions. Physicians should be involved in hospital operation to some extent since it does ultimately affect them and their patients.

Placing physicians in positions of power and trusting their advice would go a long way towards building mutual respect.

Communicate Often

In any relationship, communication is vital. For hospitals and physicians, clear and open channels of communication are necessary, each serving its own unique purpose.

First, there needs to be a clear point of contact between the administration and the physician. A physician in a leadership role who is qualified to help smooth interactions between administrators and other physicians would be wise to help with conflicts that might come up.

Second, physician orders and patient health records need a clear channel for easy transmission—without the fear of those records being lost or misplaced. Programs like HealthWare’s ActiveXCHANGE can help by providing reliable document transmission.

Finally, bringing all physicians and administrators together at least once a quarter or twice a year would help to build more firm relationships. Keep it social or make it a professional networking event. Either way, getting them talking can lead to real friendships and real trust over time.

Ultimately, trust is only the starting point. When there’s trust, there’s the opportunity for true cooperation and shared purpose. Once you have that, the real work—providing consistent and high quality care for your patients—can begin.

By Ashley Choate Professional Healthcare Blog Writer