Five Ways to Get More Patient Referrals for Your ASC

The rapid growth in the ambulatory surgery center (ASC) is attributable primarily to their high quality, convenience, lower costs and outstanding patient experience relative to other care settings. Standard outpatient procedures like knee arthroscopies cost roughly 60% less at ASCs than in hospital outpatient departments. That makes surgery centers more attractive to private payors, CMS, and patients. As patients are increasingly responsible for medical costs, the global ASC market is poised to be worth over $150 billion within the next decade.

However, before a patient goes to an ASC, they’re often referred to one by their primary care physician. If you’re considering establishing an ASC, your referral network is one area that demands attention. For ASCs, physician referrals represent a significant portion of their case volume, so nurturing and growing these networks is paramount to reaching financial sustainability. 

Here, we’ll share five essential areas to focus on to build and strengthen your referral network.

1. Prioritize Communication With Referring Physicians

Experience is among the most essential parts of a patient’s care. When it comes to referring physicians, experience matters too. Poor communication and a lack of clarity make it harder for your facility to earn consistent referrals. After all, 95% of physicians say communication is the most influential factor in making a referral. To ensure that your facility isn’t leaving money on the table, invest time and resources in making the referral process as simple as possible for physicians.

Consider setting up dedicated communication channels for referring providers so their calls are taken or returned immediately, their emails don’t get lost in an inbox, and faxes don’t get stuck with a busy line.

Keep Your Referring Physicians Up to Date

After you consult with a referred patient, contact the referring physician. Share any discharge or follow-up information they should know, and let them know the expected next steps. By keeping referring physicians in the loop, you enable them to provide a seamless experience the next time they see their patient.

2. Stay Engaged With Your Referral Networks

Keep your referral sources up-to-date on your facility, its specialties, and other features like state-of-the-art equipment. Additionally, find a way to keep them apprised of your appointment availability. Timeliness plays a significant role in many referrals, so giving referring physicians the ability to expedite a patient’s care process may make your facility stand out even more.

Assess your referrals regularly to see who your most valuable sources are. If you find that a significant portion of your facility’s revenue comes from one referral source, ensure that your team gives that source the appropriate attention to maintain and improve the relationship.

Visit those referral sources regularly and have conversations with them to understand their needs and challenges so you can be a better partner.

3. Don’t Lose Sight of Quality

Your organization can’t afford to let quality drop in a value-based care environment. Not only is quality crucial to patients, but it’s also a determining factor of whether a physician will refer a patient to you or not.

When a referral does happen, you’re perceived as an extension of that referring physician and their practice. Therefore, the quality of your care reflects on both your organization and the referring physician’s organization.

Providing outstanding care quality and an equally impressive patient experience will give referring physicians the confidence to continue sending patients your way.

4. Take No Risks When It Comes to Compliance

While referrals are essential, they could expose your facility to legal complexities concerning the Physician Self-Referral Law or Stark law. Your clinical and administrative staff must comprehend physician self-referral regulations and anti-kickback statutes. Failing to adhere to these regulations could lead to significant fines and damage your credibility with patients.

Keep in mind that accidental violations are as serious as intentional ones. Don’t take the risk if you’re ever uncertain whether a referral could breach the Stark Law. Instead, speak to a legal professional with expertise in healthcare law who can assess your situation and help you navigate the complex legal landscape.

Finally, know the protective mechanisms and safe-harbor laws that protect physicians and surgeons from inadvertently violating the law while pursuing the best possible treatment for patients. Understanding when these provisions safeguard your ASC is crucial for retaining ethical referrals and staying within legal boundaries outlined by the Stark law.

5. Optimize Your Surgical Services with an ASC Consultant

It’s extremely challenging to build a reliable and enthusiastic referral network if your facility is facing issues related to quality and efficiency. However, when you’re busy managing your facility, you may struggle to find the time to drive improvement in those areas, and your referral networks could languish as a result.

An ASC consultant can assess and benchmark your perioperative services and their interdependencies, clearly identify what isn’t working, help you build consensus for an evidence-based solution, and support your facility’s stakeholders in working together to correct it.

Sullivan Healthcare Consulting’s team of experts have been helping ambulatory surgery centers manage to higher margins for over three decades. Our consultants can assess your current referral network to identify areas for improvement. Furthermore, our expertise in implementing sustainable solutions to challenges can help your organization become more attractive to referring physicians.

To see how Sullivan’s ambulatory surgery center consultants can help your organization, get in touch with our team today.

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