The world of medicine has changed.  In today’s competitive environment, every physician must consider crucial not only the quality of care, but also the quality of the referrer and patient experience.

Radiologists, as well as other physicians, have years of training, advanced equipment, IT technology, and carefully devised workflows that keep their practices functioning effectively and efficiently. However, in today’s healthcare environment, referrers’ expectations have increased. They understand the value of their recommendations and look for their needs and preferences to be met. They also expect patients to receive high-quality service, both clinically and personally. Of course, patients themselves are playing a growing role in their healthcare decisions, including choosing medical specialists. Some even are paying with cash and shopping around for pricing.

Given this, radiologists would be wise to take a cue from the retail industry. Make no mistake about it—the customer is king. Hold the catsup and add the onions because “Having It Your Way” is more than just a slogan. It’s an integral part of business today.

How can a busy radiology practice find time to add all these new layers of workflow? Forward-thinking vendors such as IDS are reacting by offering technology to help fill the gap. Innovative IT applications, Internet portals, and automation solutions are now being designed to add convenience, speed, efficiency—and, perhaps surprisingly, even an extra personal touch to referring physician interaction.

Generally speaking, the more efficient a radiologist’s workflow, the faster the exam turnaround. That, in turn, is viewed as a plus by any referrer. This means almost any technology that supports workflow automation or speeds operations will have some impact on customer relations, from an advanced RIS to an efficient EHR. But, in particular, functionalities like online appointment booking, insurance verification, ongoing communication of patient status, and timely results reporting will all add an extra level of service to the referrer relationship.

An especially important technology today is the referring physician portal. Carefully chosen, an advanced solution like IDS AbbaDox portal can support a high level of service in most of these areas, as detailed below. Look for a vendor that shares the belief that a physician portal is the digital doorway to a practice and must make it easy and comfortable for referrers to step inside.

At the same time, a state-of-the-art patient portal is also an important way to deliver service with a smile. The right speech recognition and reporting system, such as advanced IDS Voice2Dox, can also cater to physician preference and speed results communication. Look for more details about these and other referring physician marketing technologies in Part 2 of this article coming soon.

What to Expect from a Physician Portal

A robust referring physician portal can help streamline the patient referral and intake process, in addition to supporting timely results distribution for completed exams—a big bonus for physician customers. The best portals automate workflow for radiology staff as well as for referrers, so that this value-added service is not a bottleneck in any practice member’s time.

Here’s what you can expect from the best referring physician portals on the market today:

  • Online appointment requests. Enabling referrers to transmit appointment requests before patients leave the office helps ensure compliance with the next steps in care.  Referrers have a vested interest in patient follow-up and helping to support positive outcomes.  Immediate online exam ordering also locks in new patient relationships to avoid any shopping around for alternate providers.
  • Electronic exam ordering. This is a convenience for both referring physicians and patients, helping to ensure patient follow-through. Look for a portal that provides easy access to common procedural codes.
  • Insurance verification. To ensure continuity of care, many physicians want to be sure to refer patients to a practice that accepts their insurance. A portal should offer referrers the opportunity to verify patient coverage, saving complications and time for all involved.
  • Patient educational material. A library of downloadable and printable patient educational materials for common procedures will aid referrers in explaining upcoming exams and providing reassurance. Include materials for in-office physician and patient discussions and for post-appointment education. The content should avoid medical jargon and focus on the benefits of the upcoming exam.
  • Pre-exam instructions, such as required fasting, medication avoidance, and comfortable dressing. Again provide these in clear, simple language with illustrations if possible.
  • Practice introduction. Welcome patients to the practice with a short, eye-catching flyer detailing its qualifications, hours. and location. This will make them feel at home and committed to their choice of a specialist, while simplifying the exam process and helping ensure a timely arrival. Direct them to the practice website for additional information.
  • Web chat. Online chat is particularly convenient when referrers are using a portal so that any questions can be answered expediently.

Remember, all these offerings mean nothing if a referrer’s office staff has not been introduced to the portal and made it their business to be familiar with its use. Ask a marketing representative to provide a brief demonstration. Impress staff with a strong commitment to leveraging advanced technology at every level to ensure they remain on the referral team.

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Look for Part 2 of this article in the near future.

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Yaniv Dagan is CEO of IDS based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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