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5 Ways to Streamline Outpatient Therapy Referral Management Processes

For most rehab therapy providers, the referrals department is the lifeblood of the business. Referral management directly impacts a business’ ability to grow, provide quality care, and bill in a timely manner.

It is vitally important that clerical and clinical staff are able to efficiently process inbound referrals, insurance verification, and other necessary documents that will effectively identify the appropriate care plan for a patient.

Investing time upfront to create specific referral management processes for your staff can save time, improve cash flow, and enable you to place more time and focus on patient care. Furthermore, an easy, efficient referral management process provides a great first impression for referral sources and new patients well before care begins.

Whether you utilize a referral management system or not, you’ll want to focus on these five methods in order to develop a referral management that’s as efficient as possible. We've outlined the five things you need to know to stay on top of it.

1. Collaborate With Specific Workflows

Streamlined processes lead to happier patients and referral sources. In order for the referrals process to be streamlined and effective, you’ll need all members of your team to be able to collaborate seamlessly. This may involve a few team members or several across multiple departments and locations, as in the case of a clinic with a central billing office or therapists providing therapy services at senior living communities.

In order to connect various team members,  you’ll need to develop, document, and implement specific workflows for the entire process, from receipt of the referral to patient admission. We know this isn’t easy. It’s not an overnight process.

As you develop these workflows, think of how you can better organize your current processes to: 

  • Improve efficiency
  • Reduce time spent on redundant or non-value-added tasks 
  • Reduce overhead
  • Identify tools that your team can use to communicate and collaborate in an intuitive and secure manner

Once you’ve determined the process that’s best for your team, document it and use data-driven reporting to continuously update it.

2. Go Paperless

A successful referral management system involves lots of moving parts. Referrals requires accurate documentation up front and at times, it may seem like your referral management department is flooded with paper including insurance information, patient consents, ABNs and more. On top of that, supply costs to manage paper-based processes are substantial.

After defining your referral management process and collaboration methods, look at ways to reduce paper. Oftentimes technology can mitigate or eliminate the need for manual printing, faxing, or document storage. By going paperless you can better organize and track documents, eliminate tedious scanning and protect your patients’ protected health information.  

At the end of the day, we all want to protect our planet and should implement environmentally safe processes.  You’ll sleep better knowing how many trees your business is saving.

3. Centralize

When developing your specific referral management workflows, you may want to consider process centralization. More and more therapy practices are centralizing their referral management departments, so their team can expand their reach, while staying focused on efficiency. By consolidating departments from multiple locations into one location, you can significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Process centralization can be easier to implement than most think. Cloud technology allows therapy practices to centralize their fax lines, communication, and documents into one platform. Unlike process development, this change can happen overnight.

Centralization also avoids the common issues that arise when managing multiple clinic locations. An example would be when one clinic receives a referral, but may not be the best to serve that particular patient. Process duplication and realignment delays admission and patient care.

At the end of the day, centralization makes referral management easy. Inefficiencies are eliminated. New referrals are processed quickly and routed to the appropriate branch. There’s uniformity across the company allowing for expansion and reallocation of employees. If your agency is in a position to centralize referral management, we definitely recommend it.

4. Stay Ahead Of Regulatory Changes

To ensure that your referral management department continues to increase referrals and admissions, you need to stay ahead of all regulatory changes. This means researching news articles, blogs, and the CMS website to hear about changes before they’re rolled out. When you learn about new changes be sure to educate your office staff and business development teams. Encourage them to ask for as much information as possible with the referral, so you can avoid penalties and denials. Optimizing referral management and billing is more critical now than ever before. When a new regulation is passed you may want to consider issuing educational materials, like a FAQ document, to your staff and partners.

5. Leverage Technology

Several of the suggestions we've made are further optimized or automated with technology. If your organization is not leveraging technology for referral management, you're missing out on significant cost savings, efficiency gains, and opportunities for rapid expansion.

By leveraging technology to manage and track documents and processes, you can get useful data allowing you to quickly identify bottlenecks and process gaps. Newer technology is constantly being updated to meet the needs of our ever-changing healthcare industry. You’ll want to partner with a technology company that shares the same mindset as your organization and is able to provide tools that meet those needs. Forcura’s Referral Management platform is highly scalable and utilized by growing therapy providers of all sizes.

Once you’ve streamlined your referral management processes, you’ll have more time to focus on care and relationships with your patients and referral sources. As a result, your business will thrive.

Deb 7-Retouched


Deb Buenaflor is responsible for the strategic growth of the Forcura platform, while focusing on meeting the ever-changing workflows and regulatory requirements for the post-acute healthcare industry. She works closely with Forcura’s Engineering team to guide products from conception to launch, and with industry-leading EHR partners to build technology workflows that will fulfill regulatory requirements, drive productivity, and enable better patient care.

Topics: Maximizing Back-office Efficiency, Revenue Cycle Management

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