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Hospital, PE, or Me? How to Expand Your Practice’s Referral Network to Maintain Independence

By: Maureen Ruddy, FACHE
2 Minute Read

Physicians who are part of hospital networks and practices backed by private equity firms often benefit from a steady flow of new patients who are referred by in-network providers for their ongoing care. However, maintaining a steady stream of referrals can be significantly more difficult for independent practices. But by forging durable relationships with other independent providers and specialty groups and establishing tangible goals, practices can expand their businesses while working together to provide high-quality care for patients.

Building Relationships

Establishing effective referral systems among private practices and specialty groups begins with strategic relationship building. These relationships are the key foundation to establishing and achieving operational goals that can enhance independent providers’ ability to attract new patients—a critical component of their growth and success as an organization.

Within a given community, primary care physicians are typically familiar with a particular circle of specialists, but often individuals in leadership positions may have not been introduced to their counterparts at other practices. By putting time and energy toward intentional relationship building among both physicians and their key support staff, practices can begin working together to establish and achieve collective goals while focusing on providing a high-quality experience for their patients.

Assigning Responsibilities

Two key teams are involved in establishing and achieving goals for referrals and enhanced collaboration among practices and specialty groups. We like to refer to these two groups as the “architects” (clinical teams) and the “builders” (operations teams).

  • ArchitectsWhen goal setting, practices’ clinical teams (composed of physician leaders from the independent practices and specialty groups) lead the charge, functioning as the architects that design systems for more effective positioning of their practice as an attractive and advantageous choice for patient referral. These physician leaders explore which clinical metrics are most compelling to primary care physicians and their specialist networks, such as site of service, affordability of care, and ease of communication among providers.
  • BuildersAfter these new goals are established, practices’ operations teams lead execution. These teams work together to create processes that remove barriers and capitalize on available opportunities. These teams also track progress toward the stated goals of the clinical team and share metrics with the larger internal audience.

Clinical and operational teams should work together to create measurable goals based on patient needs and business growth opportunities specific to the geographic market. Once these goals are established, it’s important to identify the proper analytics and compelling statistics to measure collective progress. By using analytics tools, practices can review and share key data that will help establish baseline metrics as well as track their journey toward achieving these goals. These data points can then be used as “selling points” for primary care physicians when deciding where to send their patients for specialty services.

Grounding these referral relationships in data about referral patterns and growth becomes a mutually reinforcing journey. Given that 70% of physicians are hospital-employed or in a PE relationship, it is more important than ever that independent physicians work together to strengthen like-minded practices, and referral alignment is one step in that journey.

These ongoing meetings between clinical and operations teams coupled with strategic goal setting and data gathering can better position practices for mutual growth and provide patients with high-quality services. For additional information on this topic or to discuss how Curi Advisory can help your practice achieve operational goals, please reach out to one of our experts by calling 800.662.7917.

Maureen Ruddy, FACHE
Maureen Ruddy is the Managing Director, Client Operations at Curi Advisory.
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