Referral Management, or patient intake management, is an important process often overlooked by many practices and specialists, even though everyone intuitively knows that it is a crucial driver of new patients and increased revenue.  If you’ve decided it’s time for your practice do a better job managing patient referrals, the next step is to pick the right technology partner.

But choosing a solution that will best fit your organization’s needs can be challenging. Here are eight essential factors to keep in mind while you’re evaluating a Medical Referral Management solution.

#1 Works with your scheduling software.

If your staff needs to manually update the status of a referral when the patient is finally scheduled & seen, your project will come to an grinding halt. The issue is important and not just an exercise in double data entry. Without an integration, your staff will have to reconcile your entire schedule, every day, against your referral list. This can be a very time-consuming process and is a sure way to interfere with the adoption of any Referral Management solution. Bottom line, integration into your scheduling software is imperative.

#2 Does not depend on your referring physicians changing the way they work.

Using a referral management solution should not require referring physicians to change the way they do business with you. If they like to fax you referrals, don’t ask them to install an app they’ve never used before. If the success of the project requires changing the behavior of your referring providers, you may be waiting a long time to get any return on your investment.

#3 Simple, with a short learning curve.

We all know that more isn’t always better. Remember the EMR that sounded so cool because it had every feature under the sun, but was nearly impossible to roll out because it was too complicated?  Look for a solution that you can see everyone in your office picking up in under an hour. If the vendor requires pricy upfront customization, high startup costs, or extensive training, “simple” is not a term that describes their solution. Consider yourself warned.

#4 Organizes the referral cycle into manageable work lists.

Managing patients from their initial referral to someone that raves about you on Healthgrades takes a team. The best solutions automatically create and organize work into queues by department and stage in the referral cycle. A manager should not need to worry about assigning tasks on every referral to move it through the organization. Don’t get me wrong, task assignment is a useful feature for escalation and exception handling. But task assignment alone doesn’t scale when managing a life cycle.

#5 Includes secure messaging.

Some referrals need immediate attention, whether it’s the doctor seeing the patient or a nurse doing an assessment. Any solution you consider should include the ability to securely message your team members to quickly get their attention when required. Whatever messaging you use should be sufficiently secure and HIPAA compliant.

#6 Ensures you “close the loop” on every patient.

Many intake software solutions send follow-up notes back to the referring physician after seeing a patient. The best solutions should also remind you to send a “No Show” notification when a referred patient never comes to see you. Remember, the patient was referred to you for a reason. Unlike a traditional sales-focused Contact Management Systems (“CRMs”), a Medical Referral Management solution should help you close the loop on every referral, not just the ones that become patients. This not only ensures the best treatment possible for a potentially new patient but also helps your referring physicians manage the health of their existing patients.

#7 Helps you convey your appreciation for the referral.

Nothing says “Thank You” better than a personally written cover letter back to a referring physician. Unlike a generic note regurgitated from your EHR, a customized message that summarizes your assessment and treatment plan can make the difference between getting that next referral—so critical to the maintenance and growth of your practice. A great Referral Management solution will help create this type of personalized response letter with minimal effort.

#8 Incorporates charge capture.

Ideally, your referral management solution includes the ability to capture charges. When referral activity can be associated to revenues, you’ll be able to assess which referral sources are sending you not just the most patients but the most profitable ones.