Not all situations can be handled within one office, so sometimes it is necessary to refer patients elsewhere. Despite the logic behind them, referrals often come bundled with liabilities that can give any OD a headache.
From staking one's reputation on others’ actions, to getting left out of the loop on ongoing patient care, the patient referral process can be painful, says Walter O. Whitley, OD, MBA, FAAO, Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member, at the recent SECO meeting.
ODs can change referrals from a chore to regular component
s of the business. Strategies to do so include a goal of improving communication among healthcare practitioners, along with addressing problems inherent to the referral process.
ODs need to know how to collaborate effectively with healthcare partners to achieve a higher standard of care for every patient.
Common problems with patient referrals
Although comanaged care can contribute to stronger patient outcomes, there are problems with patient referrals that make healthcare practitioners unwilling to engage in the process:
• A lack of referral letters and poor communication in general
• Increased wait times for the patient
• Returning patients to their clinic of origin
The need for referrals underscores the importance of having strong relationships with fellow ODs and other providers within the healthcare industry. Building a strong network of collaborative care begins with understanding when referrals are necessary to improve patient outcomes, says Dr. Whitley.
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