When Shawn Jorgensen, MD, and his brother joined their small private PM & R practice in upstate New York, there was no established referral base for electrodiagnostic (EDX) testing. So they got to work and developed specific strategies that have led to their success in building their EDX practice.
Jorgensen pointed out that an analysis of 35,000 patient reviews showed that communication, delay, and long wait times—not quality of care—garnered 96 percent of the poor ratings. This means it’s critical to think about the entire patient experience, and not just the history and physical exam.
In their presentation, How to Build a Successful Private or Academic EDX Practice, at the 2018 annual meeting of the AANEM, Jorgensen and John Norbury, MD, presented several learning objectives, but Jorgensen focused primarily on one:
Implement strategies to align your electrodiagnostic practice with the needs of patients and referring providers.
Start with Availability
When referring physicians need to send someone to you, they aren’t going to be happy with long waits, and neither will their patients. Jorgensen recommends monitoring the time to next available appointment, shooting for new appointment availability within two weeks for EDX testing. He has found that patients who might tolerate longer waits for consultations are less tolerant of long waits for testing appointments.
It also helps to have urgent slots available in your schedule to work with referrers and patients who need immediate help. If referrers know you will help them in urgent situations, they are more likely to send routine cases your way as well.
Increase appointment capacity by optimizing systems and run on time by being realistic about the time needed for testing. And don’t try to catch up at the next patient’s expense when you do run behind—patients who have to wait respond much more favorably if you make them your primary focus.
Keep Lines of Communication Open with Referrers
Jorgensen emphasizes the importance of getting the testing report to the referring provider before the patient returns to them for follow-up. Sometimes this is difficult, but it is essential to the best possible relationship with your referrers. Jorgensen uses templates for common findings, freeing up time to elaborate on anything that stands out in the testing.
He also stresses how important it is for the report to be easy for the referrer to read. If reports are faxed, take that into consideration when choosing font style and size, for example.
Make a point to be accessible to referring physicians in the event of any kind of communication break down.
Get Your Support Staff on Board
Often it’s the support staff who will interact with referrers, so they must understand the importance of their role in working with these providers. Make sure the entire staff understands any particulars of dealing with your top referrers so they can meet those needs without being asked.
Jorgensen emphasizes that those little “neuroticisms” of his top referrers are his problem, and therefore his staff’s problem, because they are in the business of helping referrers provide the best possible patient care.
These steps are a good start to building a reputation as a reliable and accessible resource for referring providers who need EDX testing. But patient experiences are another important factor for referrers who are deciding where to send future referrals. In part two of Building a Good Relationship with EDX Referrers, we will discuss how Jorgensen manages those patient visits to build goodwill and improve patient outcomes.