Shifting the Mindset from Dr. to CEO

“In med school, you don’t ever prepare for the business side of being a doctor. We had no idea about referral management. It isn’t just, ‘Hey I’m a doctor now, and people are going to roll through the door!”

Dr. Rajesh Padmanabhan, MD, FACS

  • Experts in laparoscopic and robotic surgery
  • Over 25 surgical procedures offered
About DRP Surgery

Dr. Siddhartha Rath and Dr. Rajesh Padmanabhan joined together to share their 25+ years of surgical experience to serve the Arlington, North Mansfield and North Ft. Worth Area. The mission at DRP SURGERY is to be a high quality, reliable, and convenient surgical option for patients and primary care physicians in the Arlington area.

When someone decides to become a doctor they do so knowing they’ve just signed up for several more years of education. What they don’t realize is they might as well take some extra business classes at the same time to prepare them for life as a small business owner as well. Along with seemingly everything in our brave new (digital) world, collecting and analyzing data is key if you want to operate a business to its full potential; understanding and making it all actionable even more so. Dr. Rajesh Padmanabhan, or “Dr. P” as he’s more commonly known, and the rest of the team at DRP Surgery have learned a valuable lesson these past few years transitioning from a simplistic view of presuming referrals would always be there to actively managing the follow up process to ensure referrals lead to appointments.

 

The Challenge

Before DRP adopted Leading Reach, patient care coordination was a disorganized, arduous, and downright messy endeavor. More specifically, the referral process was a bottleneck on business operations – one that DRP had no visibility with when it came reporting from their EHR.

In the United States alone, a shocking 50% of fax and paper based referrals never lead to an appointment, and at DRP it was no different. Faxing used to be DRP’s go-to for both inbound and outbound referrals, which numbered around 75 per week. Those 75 referrals became 75 sheets of paper stashed into a big folder and stuffed into a filing cabinet, away from everyone’s attention. With no real emphasis put on referral management, the responsibilities of keeping track of referrals fell upon the shoulders of the front desk receptionist, someone who already had a plate full of duties. And while faxes and phone calls work fine in theory, the reality is, as Dr. P says, that most people nowadays simply don’t answer their phones from an unknown number. For the receptionist, this means putting referral faxes on standby while others continue to pile up. The operational headaches were endless, but worse even was all the unnecessary time allotted to tracking referrals.

“Most people nowadays simply don’t answer their phones from an unknown number.”

The Solution

With Leading Reach, everyone in the office can use the platform to stay updated on the status of referrals, as well as maintain a strong level of communication with all involved in the patient journey. It’s been a tremendous help with streamlining the entire referral process while allowing employees to focus more time and energy on their own specific jobs. “I can tell you that prior
to LeadingReach, the person who was the front desk receptionist was also the one taking care of the incoming referrals,” Theresa explained. “Because of LR, we’ve been able to separate that into two separate responsibilities. So front desk is front desk, and we have Ellie as the Referral Coordinator, and it’s worked a lot better. It’s cleaner and the numbers can go out a lot better.”

Once considered an afterthought, referral management was a huge missed opportunity for DRP. Dr. P recalls the days before Leading Reach and how little effort they put into referrals, “I remember before, when I hired for it, I would say to myself, ‘Basically some high school student can do my referrals.’ I could say, ‘Hey call these numbers and get these people in.’ I think once we found the data that it gives us, it was like, ‘Man, there’s a lot to this that we can make ourselves better. We can get more people in the door.’ It showed us the importance of the data, and leveraging it, and how we can do better. It makes a huge difference; if you can get two extra people in the door a week, that’s a lot of extra revenue.”

Key data points on each patient in the Leading Reach system, neatly arranged into customized dashboards, have allowed DRP to form comprehensive insights about their patients and develop a clear road map for decision making. When it comes to referrals, Dr. P and his staff now know which ones to work on more, which ones to work on less, and which ones they should reward for quality of service.

The result has been an enormous improvement in their Referral to Appointment Ratio, which is a key driver in both immediate and future revenue for the practice.

“It’s really made the referral coordinator’s job very important, and just showed us how many more patients we can get in the door when the system is organized, and we have one person really understanding the program,” said Dr. P. “We’ve realized there’s a lot more to a referral than a fax and a call. There’s a real science behind it.”

“We’ve realized there’s a lot more to a referral than a fax and a call. There’s a real science behind it.”

The Results

The ability to facilitate easy and thorough communication with patients and providers has had a profound impact on the patients’ journeys. They can stay engaged, feel taken care of, and overall have better access to timely care at DRP. Patients are enjoying a far better end-to-end experience, leading to better word-of-mouth marketing, and the likelihood that people will come back to DRP for any surgical needs they may have.

With a much-improved RTA ratio, DRP is finding the Leading Reach service pays for itself tenfold. Even one additional patient through the door pays for the service, and with two additional patients per week, DRP is increasing revenue at an extraordinary rate. No more lost paperwork, no more miscommunication, and no more wasted hours means more patients through the door, more revenue into the business, and more opportunity to improve the practice.

Despite being a highly-accomplished surgeon, Dr. P is well aware now that there is so much more to successfully running a medical practice than being a great doctor. “In med school, you don’t ever prepare for the business side of being a doctor. We had no idea about referral management. It isn’t just, ‘Hey I’m a doctor now, and people are going to roll through the door!’” These days Dr. P may just need to invest in a good doormat for all those feet coming in and out the DRP doors.

“It’s really made the referral coordinator’s job very important, and just showed us how many more patients we can get in the door when the system is organized.”