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Wade Family Medicine Successfully Implements Referral Management Program

By: Paige Fieldsted, Sr. Communications Specialist, HealthInsight Utah

When Wade Family Medicine chose a quality improvement project to work on as part of the CHIPRA grant they wanted to choose something that could improve patient care and really make an impact for patients. WendySue Smith, office manager for Wade Family Medicine, said improving their referral management seemed like the biggest place they could improve patient care. 
Smith said before the project when a physician referred a patient to a specialist they rarely knew if the patient made the appointment or what the outcome was but now the clinic checks their insurance, makes the appointment for them and then gets a follow-up report from the specialist before the patient is seen again.

“The patient now has a whole different feeling about being referred out,” Smith said. “Before they felt like they were referred out because we didn’t want to deal with it and it was beyond our scope. Now they know we care and want to follow-up with them about their care.”

Smith said they started the project one provider at a time and that each provider has brought new insight and helped to improve the referral process. Smith also said that before the project, they weren’t using their electronic health records (EHR) to help with referral management but now the whole process is done through the EHR and makes bringing a new provider on board simple.

“We still have a few more providers to go but now it is really easy,” Smith said. “We just take one in and teach them the process. We’ve worked out most of the bugs and learned from it. We’ve improved every time we’ve added a provider and the process has become less cumbersome.”

Smith and the rest of the Wade family staff worked with Daniel Chipping, HealthInsight project manager, on the project. Smith said Chipping helped them realize the importance of tracking their data so they can see how they are making a difference.

“They’ve had close to 300 referrals that have been followed-up on and closed since the start of year,” Chipping said. “It is easy to get providers on board because we can quantify how many lives we’re actually improving and how many patients we are helping.”

Providers at the clinic say closing the referral loop has helped them provider better care for their patients and said the feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive.

Brittany Cox, medical assistant at Wade Family Medicine, said patients are surprised and grateful that the clinic is taking the time to help them get into to a see a specialist and are shocked that the clinic cares about their care and overall wellbeing.

“It has really opened my eyes as to how much we were lacking in that area of patient care,” Cox said.“It makes me proud that we are able to provide that kind of service to our patients. It definitely helps boost my moral at work to hear from patients that they appreciate what we are doing for them.”