May 19, 2008

Flex Your Referral Muscles — Using RIS Data
By Annie Macios
Radiology Today
Vol. 9 No. 10 P. 24

Tracking referrals can be tricky but, when done correctly, it can shape up your bottom line.

Most radiology groups are treated as medical practices rather than businesses, but their world is becoming increasingly competitive while revenues are shrinking. Few companies are able to give these groups real-time information about where their business is coming from, often leaving administrators at a disadvantage for maximizing their referral business.

“For radiology practices, the business doesn’t get any easier, just tougher,” says Yaniv Dagan, president of Integrated Document Solutions (IDS) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “There is a high demand, and they must respond not only as a medical institution but as a business.”

Because of the regulatory environment, there are strict guidelines concerning how business is acquired for these groups. Any enticement can be construed as illegal or cause trouble for a practice. Therefore, radiology groups look to gain clients through referrals from local hospitals and private practices. Because many hospitals can’t handle the demand for radiology services, they often send the overflow to radiology groups, keeping control by partnering with a chosen group.

With many radiology centers to choose from, especially in larger cities, the only way a referring physician can differentiate between the most and least efficient ones is by knowing how quickly reports are turned around. “He wants his patient to be treated with respect and the utmost of care,” says Dagan. “He wants to use a center that turns reports around quickly because his ability to treat the patient is dependent upon the timely work of whom he referred the patient to.”

Measuring Success
Many stand-alone radiology groups hire marketing companies to create relationships with referring physicians in an attempt to maintain or increase referral business. “But in this scenario, it is hard to measure the effectiveness of a marketing rep, and you can’t quantify the results,” says Dagan. He says that a referring doctor may tell the rep that he or she sent patients to a particular radiology group, but administrators never know if the patients are a result of that marketing effort because it can’t be verified without records and documentation.

Taking all these factors into consideration, IDS developed an application that pulls information from its transcription services and other radiology-oriented reporting solutions, which helps providers identify the sources of their referral business, manages marketing efforts, and generates a variety of reports detailing turnaround times throughout various stages of the report creation process. IDS is able to provide its clients with these key facts because it easily integrates into a client’s workflow processes and has the ability to interface with various software systems.

“No other transcription company provides that role. It can help in increasing the business relationship,” says Dagan. “Instead of just transcription services, we are also providing a referral source that can stimulate business for them. They might think they are getting referral business from various places, but the referral marketing manager can help the CEO look to see if perception is reality.”

The referral marketing manager blends contact management functionality with a referrer marketing analysis engine to provide a comprehensive management tool for identifying the volume and source of an organization’s referrals. In addition to the productivity reporting, the system includes a customer relationship management (CRM) system to help marketers and administrators manage their interactions with current and prospective referring physicians. Combining the CRM and transcription pieces shows a CEO exactly how effective any marketing activity is and gives a clear picture of how efficient the radiology practice is, which in the long run leads to continued referrals.

Paul M. Duck, president and CEO of Florida Radiology Imaging (FRi) in Orlando, has, over the last two years, taken FRi from a medical practice to a business entity to an enterprise enjoying substantial success with a focus on providing better care while achieving profitability. “We exist as a for-profit joint venture between Adventist Health System and Florida Radiology Associates,” says Duck.

FRi began its relationship with IDS two years ago as a transcription customer at two original sites and then a third, adding three new sites in 2007. According to Duck, the Orlando area demographically has the highest concentration of outpatient imaging centers, so CRM solutions are important for maintaining business volume. “In January of 2007, we pulled the trigger on the CRM solution,” says Duck. “The previous system didn’t give a firm handle on the marketing tracking activities. IDS provides a unique CRM solution tied to report delivery.”

As a result, Duck reports a 30% growth in volume last year, with the same high percentage projected again for this year. He attributes the growth to using operating metrics and looking at where to focus on all levels—both with the CRM side and the turnaround time reporting. Duck says he continually demands more from IDS, and they continue to come up with reporting tools that improve functionality.

“A lot of companies in healthcare talk about partnerships, but the relationship between FRi and IDS is truly a partnership,” says Duck. “We continually come up with ideas collaboratively and talk about tactical things that make us better and also make IDS more effective. IDS actively listens and delivers.”

Concentrating Efforts
Duck says that having the ability to tie marketing reps’ activity to marketing campaigns is incredibly valuable. “For example, we had new centers open last year with a volume of zero to begin with,” he says. “We wanted to know what marketing activity was being done and the volume related to those activities. The CRM solution can give practical facts in regard to those marketing activities.”

Often, a marketing rep visits a referring physician who will say, “I sent you 20 cases.” With IDS, you can look instantaneously and know what kind of cases were sent and how many because the reports are tied to transcription. Duck says they know what work has been done, if they’ve been paid, and exactly when that happened. “An imaging center might be able to say volume has gone up, but now we can tie that to reports that are typed on the back end to verify and quantify that claim,” Duck adds.

“Another example of how useful the CRM tool has been was in relation to one center that is in a very different demographical area than our others. In that case, we have done a lot of direct consumer marketing, which is rare,” says Duck. “We found there that patient choice did drive volume in this case and, using the tool, we can predict what will occur in regard to volume.”

The referral marketing solution ties certain marketing initiatives to the fact that they drive business. Last year, FRi received national media coverage with the Midnight Mammograms & Manicures campaign, and the management tool could measure the volume related to that campaign, as well as where it came from. “All the information is right there in the tool,” says Duck. He also notes that it’s possible to track the activities of the marketing rep on a very granular level on a daily basis.

FRi has six marketing representatives for its five centers. Melody Huffman, marketing director for FRi, reports that the company’s reps are happy with the system, and IDS and FRi are currently working on making the system wireless so that the reps can access any previous call information from wherever they are. “That’s another great thing about using IDS. You can access the data from anywhere,” says Huffman. FRi’s reps are tasked to know their numbers, and all accounts are tagged to their name with the expectation that call reports will be done within two days of a call on a referring physician. “You can literally see if a doctor is not giving you any business and take the steps to change that,” according to Huffman.

Top Takeaways
Duck says IDS is highly committed to its customers. “Orlando is a huge growth market that continues to grow all the time,” says Duck. “I like the ability to work with IDS as a partner that provides utility to our company. IDS performs, period. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t use them. They continue to look for ways to innovate and improve our business to give us the competitive advantage.”

As a vendor partner, IDS has pointed FRi toward reducing their transcription costs. “Imagine a vendor interested in driving a customer’s costs down,” says Duck. “That truly shows the sense and heart of our business partnership. Of course, IDS can aggregate a bigger footprint as a result of what they’ve created.” Dagan says the cost reduction is realized starting with conventional transcription services and enhancing turnaround times through template and structured reporting and speech recognition technology.
On the marketing side, Duck appreciates the ability to know what the trends are on a referring physician and real-time basis. He can look at modality and referring physician to chart activity. “If the report shows me with a red arrow that numbers are down for a particular referring physician, I know something has to be done,” Duck adds. “It also tracks the marketing reps’ activity and creates accountability of what the reps are doing to drive business.”

Duck also appreciates the simple yet equally important tasks that can be done with turnaround time reporting. A doctor might say, “I haven’t received a report on patient X,” and Duck can determine exactly when the report was transcribed, signed off on, and faxed by looking at the transaction log.

Huffman often uses the reporting tool to trend what referring doctors are doing. “You can trend very easily month over month what the referral sources are doing,” she reports. “The system shows the volume instantly with either a red or green arrow, and you can look at where volume has lapsed and learn why that might have happened.”

She especially likes the system’s user friendliness and the amount of information she gets from it, depending on how she wants the information to be sorted. “You can sort by marketing rep, specialty, physician, zip code, date, and modality, which gives you a lot of useful information,” says Huffman.

For example, sorting reports by zip code can prevent overcounting referrals. “With five facilities, we want to be sure we are growing new referral sources rather than pulling from our other centers,” Huffman says. “We are able to build our business effectively by pulling up transactions by zip code and focusing on new referrals.”

Compared with the previous system, Huffman reports that FRi has more control over the system, and it can be easily edited so that needed information is available in the format that makes the most sense for FRi. Huffman reports that the group recently added the feature of sorting by physician groups rather than looking up each physician individually. This enables the marketing rep to generate a note to all doctors in a group practice and concentrate their efforts.

Secret Weapon
Having used the CRM tool and referral solutions, Duck feels that IDS’ technology is a “secret weapon” that others have yet to find. He says that when he talks with CEOs from imaging centers across the country, they say report delivery and marketing are usually the most problematic areas for them. Conversely, he says those two areas, as a result of the relationship with IDS, are FRi’s strengths. Dagan adds, “It provides real-time information and has accuracy that simply can’t be disputed.”

Dagan says that while IDS has many satisfied customers using the referral management tool, Duck uses it to its full potential because he truly understands what he can do with it to grow the business. “His interaction with referring physicians is truly remarkable,” says Dagan.

Duck attributes much of the success to what he feels is a talented management team at FRi. “It’s like being on the 1992 Chicago Bulls championship team,” he says.

— Annie Macios is a freelance writer based in Doylestown, Pa.